Matt Sobel’s Goodnight Mommy (2022), which is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is the remake of the 2014 Austrian film of the same name. But if 2014 original directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz turned out to be one of those shocking arthouse horrors after a worldwide festival run, the remake strips it off the mystery and violence that made the film so memorable in the first place.
Naomi Watts, who leads this version, is not new to remakes. She also lead the American remake of the equally, if not more disturbing, remake of another Austrian filmmaker- Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. Watts is a gifted actress, and she truly gives it her all in Goodnight Mommy, but she can barely save the film that is hellbent on giving away the mystery and over-explaining things. If the film left you wanting more, don’t worry because you are not the only one. This article will take a deep dive into that hurried ending. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I would urge you to see it first and then read the rest of this analysis as there are spoilers ahead.
Goodnight Mommy (2022) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis :
Goodnight Mommy follows the twin brothers Elias and Lukas (Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti) as they visit their mother (Naomi Watts) in her country house. Their parents have divorced and separated, where dad doesn’t even want to go inside the house when dropping the children off. We get glimpses of how the family was before- as filmed with a mobile, where the twins are taken care of by the mother, who puts them to sleep every night singing, “You are my sunshine.”
Cut to the present, when the kids are shocked to see their mother’s face completely covered with bandages. It turns out that the mother has had major cosmetic surgery that needs healing. She promises that she is still the same person beneath so there’s no need to feel scared. She makes it clear that the barn and her office are off-limits. Yet, the kids begin to notice changes. Their mother doesn’t sing them songs during the night, and once a non-smoker, she now smokes in the privacy of her room and dances in front of the mirror.
The kids begin to doubt whether the woman behind the mask is actually their mother. From an old picture, they find out that her eyes are green in color but now her eyes are blue. At the barn, they see a mysterious spot that looks like blood. The kids also try to contact their father but the mother finds out, breaks the lock of their room, and puts their cell phone in the garbage disposal. Surely that doesn’t calm the kids down, as they run away on a stormy night only to find themselves disposed of to their mother by two police officers.
Some hallucinations aside, the kids also see how their mother notices only one of them- Elias. It is as if Lucas is forgotten or doesn’t exist. Their mother even tries to separate them. These disturbances become unbearable and the kids decide that enough is enough. They tie the mother up in the bed and refuse to let her go until she comes out with the truth. The kids throw ice-cold water on her but she still clings to her truth.
Lucas tells Elias that her mother is lying and they should simply leave the house. Elias is coaxed by her mother not to listen to his brother and only listen to what he wants to do. Elias then realizes that Lucas has been influencing his perspective. He sets his mother free and cannot find Lucas anymore. Her mother takes him to the barn where she tells him the truth that he had accidentally shot his brother Lucas when they were playing with a gun. Lucas doesn’t exist- he is simply a part of his imagination. He pushes his mother from the barn who falls down and the barn catches fire from the lantern, burning her down. Elias escapes outside.
Goodnight Mommy (2022) Movie review:
The main premise of Goodnight Mommy involves the exploration of identity and grief in a way that one cannot anticipate before. Sobel’s film barely reaches that point where it allows for any introspection about the ways the kids are dealing with loss. Watts is the only saving grace of this half-baked film that barely trusts the audience to find the missing links together. There is no mystery left to the proceedings, and by the time Goodnight Mommy reaches its twisted climax, we cease to care whether she is the real mother or not. The kids are not creepy enough to hold attention, and the boggy production design of the house that lightens and darkens without any restraint fails to retain any interest whatsoever.
It seems that screenwriter Kyle Warren and director Matt Sobel are determined not to keep anything left to the imagination. There is no ambiguity to Goodnight Mommy, that could have added to the unnerving nature of the film. Watts is in fine form but she cannot save the film that is so casually stitched together. At no point do we feel for the characters in any capacity or feel the terror of the situation. Every point is made in a sanitized manner that makes Goodnight Mommy fairly tedious. The startling twist at the end feels too hurried on the other hand and seals the deal that Goodnight Mommy is one of the most unnecessary films of the year.
Goodnight Mommy (2022) Ending, Explained:
Why does the mother put bandages on her face?
One of the questions that must have left you scratching your head is why does the mother put bandages on her face. It is revealed that the mother was a famous actress before. Even the police officers remember her and want her autograph. Who is she under the bandaid? It is revealed that she had the bandages to feel good after the accident where one of her children passed away and her marriage ended. She wanted to start afresh. She is running away from the grief and does not want to face herself in the mirror.
In his dreams Elias often sees that his mother is not his mother but a black demonic creature underneath. But that is not the truth as no one really understood the mother (she doesn’t even have a name other than being connected to her children). She is denied the love of motherhood due to the tragedy. She is denied the love of companionship after the separation from her husband. Putting on the bandaid is her way of hiding from the world, from herself.
What happens in the barn?
Elias is taken to the barn where her mother forces him to face the spot. She holds the lantern for him to see the gunshot. She tells him that it is okay, the gun was loaded when he was playing with his brother and he accidentally shot at Lucas. Lucas died as a result of the accident, and not because of Elias. Now, if he sees Elias around him, it is just a projection of his grief that does not accept the fact that his brother is no more.
Whatever Lucas tells him to do is a result of the internal fear he still feels inside. At this moment, Elias tells his mother to stop as it is challenging for him to revisit the trauma. He pushes his mother by accident who falls down and loses consciousness. The hay catches fire and the barn burns down before Lucas can save her. He runs for safety outside and watches the fire eat away the barn.
Who does Lucas see at the end of Goodnight Mommy?
At the end of Goodnight Mommy, when Lucas sobs at the death of his mother, a hand reaches out to him. He sees that it is his mother and Elias standing beside him. It tells us, the viewer, that the hallucinations of Lucas have returned and the cycle will continue for him. We do not know what lies ahead of Lucas as now there is no one to tell him the truth, no one to tell him the difference between his fantasy and reality.