Dir. Matt Sobel
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
The Queen of US remakes, Naomi Watts (THE RING, FUNNY GAMES, KING KONG) stars in the US adaptation of the Austrian film GOODNIGHT MOMMY, which sees twins Elias and Lukas return home to find their mother recovering from facial surgery. When her behaviour starts becoming erratic, the boys suspect she may actually not be their mother.
Released in 2014, the original is still fresh in a lot of people's memory, primarily because it was a vicious and nasty film that scarred anyone with kids and traumatized those expecting. Matt Sobel's adaptation is severely toned down to the point that it insults any recognition of the 2014 film but is a softcore subtitled less thriller for newcomers who strive for a lazier cash grab. Comparisons, ironically, to FUNNY GAMES, were well earned making a beautifully dark and violent family drama that took the veil of reality and made a real horror from it. Here that veil is touched upon but never fully pulled back.
That may be a little harsh but as with any remake, the question always has to be why? Why are we making this? If the only sensible reason is to amend the language then it really is nothing more than a studio using an IP to extend its audience for those too lazy to read the subtitles or adapt to the origin language.
2022 is not without its flaws, in contrast the boys are much more likeable making their questioning of events more genuine and the toned down violence gives a much more emotionally hitting finale. Naomi Watts is a powerhouse and does what she does best and alongside Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti fortunately give great performances to keep engagement, it's only when mirrored to it's original that it's issues become apparent and I suppose if it is a more mainstream rendition that intends to soften the impact then perhaps GOODNIGHT MOMMY is a much more successful adaptation than it gets credit. In its favour, its a much more tolerable film to watch through and withdraws from some of the difficult scenes played out in the Austrian movie. Somehow though, while retaining the central plot and pretty much scene for scene play for the first half, the film doesn't have the punch or lasting impact it should. Often referencing the earlier move, the naming of the boys (in line with the actors who played the twins first time round), the closing flames and that terrifying wake-up scene for mother which brings fear into any mothers eyes.
Without the pastel colours, there's something of a mainstream paintbrush that takes away the nastier layers, even when the literal layers are being ripped apart, it's not a movie without trying but in this case, due to the source' nature, it was either go hard or go home. Unfortunately the scars still remain from Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz' film and they cut deep, this is merely a flesh wound that will be forgotten about.