Eye For Film >> Movies >> M.O.M. Mothers Of Monsters (2020) Film Review
M.O.M. Mothers Of Monsters
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
What would you do if you were worried that your child might seriously harm someone? Most every parent wants, first and foremost, to protect their offspring, so you might be hesitant to bring in the authorities. What's scarier, though, is that often when parents do seek out professional help they find that there's very little available. Based on the testimonies and journals of school shooters and their parents, Tucia Lyman's film uses a found footage format to explore one mother's concerns and let viewers draw their own conclusions about what's going on.
Abbey (Melinda Page Hamilton) is separated from her husband and has primary custody of their teenage son, Jacob (Bailey Edwards). We are introduced to her through one of the many videos she's making, which she plans to use to share her story with other worried mothers. Some of these are simple addresses to camera, discussing Jacob's behaviour and the misgivings she's had about him since his early childhood. Others are old home movies showing hints of what worried her, and still others are film of his present day behaviour, captured secretly through a variety of hidden cameras positioned around their home. She raises issues like his love of violent video games, his casual racism, his destructive tantrums and his various morbid bits of junk - but are any of these things really unusual enough to lead to the conclusion that he's a school shooter in the making?
As the film develops and we learn more about Abbey's past, it becomes apparent that she has some issues of her own and may be biased in the direction of suspecting her son. It's obvious that we're only getting one side of the story, with Jacob's voice absent except in footage that has been edited to bolster her case. She allows that he doesn't fit the template in some ways - he has friends and gets good grades at school - but it's not until the second half of the film, when Jacob realises he's being surveilled and decides to do something about it, that we start to understand his perspective - and by then it may be too late to prevent a tragedy.
Hamilton is good as the worried mother, within the limits of a role that requires her to keep on delivering more of the same until it's obvious that Abbey's obsession is bordering on the irrational. The question is, does that make her wrong? And couldn't anyone start losing it a bit after living under that kind of stress for years? Edwards, too, faces challenges as an actor given Jacob's flattened emotion, right up until he encounters something unexpected in his final scene. He's very effective at capturing the petty snarkiness of a disaffected teenager amusing himself by baiting others, but hints that there's more gong on - enough to make us wonder how much of the behaviour we see is simply a reaction to his damaged relationship with his mother, even a longing for a closer connection.
M.O.M. spends a long time building up its case and might be stronger if it ran a little shorter, but it does a good job of striking a balance between the two main possibilities offered by the story, and thus keeping viewers guessing. Set almost entirely within one house, it makes economic use of space and succeeds in building up the kind of claustrophobia that teenagers and their parents will be all too familiar with - the type of situation in which, when it becomes extreme, it's all too easy to lose track of the bigger picture and come to believe that there's no way out.Reviewed on: 12 Mar 2020
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