Misleading title aside, the Russian subtitled film, Scary Mother, is not a horror film. Instead, it’s an exhausting (and confusing) journey of a 50-year-old woman whose quest to get her erotic novel published, causes her to display dangerously erratic behavior that threatens her home life.
The story focuses on Manana (Nato Murvanidze), who despite having a supportive and normal family, is completely unhappy with her life. The only thing that seems to matter to her is the book she is writing.
But, the book itself becomes the problem when at a family dinner, excerpts from the book reveal deeply disturbing correlations to her actual family. Which puts her at odds with her children, and especially her husband Anri (Dimitri Tatishvili).
“…an exhausting (and confusing) journey of a 50-year-old woman whose quest to get her erotic novel published…”
The only person who seems to be in her corner during all of this turmoil is a strange, old shopkeep Nukri (Ramaz Loseliani), who eventually convinces Manana to leave her husband and children and stay in a backroom in his shop to finish her book. And from this point on is where her descent into madness really takes root.
The funny thing is, as I’m writing the description of this film, it actually sounds more interesting than it actually was.
To director Ana Urushadze’s credit, Scary Mother has been heralded by film festivals and other cinematic publications alike for being a “pro-feminism” look at women who have sacrificed their identities and their passions for the sake of “patriarchal servitude.” For me personally, it was an uncomfortable hour and forty-five minutes of a woman having a mental collapse… that was not earned.
What I mean by “earned” is this: There is nothing in the film that justifies her behavior or how she has reached this place of emotional crisis. In fact, just from what we are shown as viewers, her life seems pretty damn good. Loving children. A faithful (and supportive) husband who, though had to be harsh with her at times, was genuinely trying to keep his family together. And nothing was established that she was actually “mentally ill.” We have to reach this conclusion based on her actions.
“…a ‘pro-feminism’ look at women who have sacrificed their identities and their passions…”
This is where the film fails for me.
But, her mental break wasn’t what made the movie so rough to watch. The first half of the movie seemed to be at least leading somewhere. All of Manana’s poor decisions were, what appeared to be, coming to a head. But instead, the only thing the audience is left with is a baffling monologue from a weird character who only appears near the end of the film, and seems to be battling cardiac arrest while he delivers his ridiculously over-the-top speech.
I will say that the some of the scenes from a cinematic viewpoint were visually gorgeous and extremely well-done. And the performance of Murvanidze kept most of the film from falling completely flat.
Scary Mother has an intriguing concept but doesn’t do a very good job of pulling you in. The fact that the subtitles were choppy and poorly executed was a big reason for this. Along with confusing plot and unexplained characters popping up for random scenes never to be seen again, you will probably lose interest halfway through.
Scary Mother (2017) Directed and Written by Ana Urushadze. Starring Nato Murvanidze, Dimitri Tatishvili, Ramaz Loseliani, and Avtandil Makharadze
6 out of 10