Motherly - The Battle of All Mothers

 


Kate: Lora Burke
Beth: Tessa Kozma
Hal: Colin Paradine
Mary: Kristen MacCulloch
Lewis: Nick Smyth
Director: Craig Wallace
Writer: Craig Wallace & Ian Malone
Release: 2021

From the opening scene this is an intriguing tale where nothing is as it seems to be. And "seems to be" is a theme running through the story which is the beauty of "Motherly", weaving a narrative through a labyrinth of secrets managing to be both intriguing and entertaining.

Kate and her 9 year old daughter Beth have escaped a traumatic past and now find themselves hiding in isolation in a rural area. From the start, it's evident that there's tension between them, with Beth displaying defiance and a longing to be with her dad and Kate, who is protective but somewhat controlling and prone to outbursts of frustrated anger. 


They are not entirely alone as help is on hand in the form of Hal who is there to keep an eye on them and ensure their safety, especially when Kate suspects that an intruder has entered their home. She is on high alert to protect her child while the tension mounts, laying the ground for an intricate web of unexpected twists and turns.

At its core, "Motherly" explores the lengths to which parents will go to protect their children, a familiar theme in the realm of home invasion films. Yet, what sets it apart is its adeptness at leaving a trail of tantalising clues for the viewer to follow, weaving a narrative that, in less able hands, could easily have become a jumble of loosely connected threads. Instead, the viewer's perceptions and loyalties constantly shift, carried along by the the pacing and script which keep it tight and it all fits nicely into the 81 minute runtime.

The acting from the cast is top-notch with real chemistry between Lora Burke and Tessa Kozma who give a convincing portrayal of the fractious relationship between mother and daughter. Burke, in particular, carries the weight of the story on her shoulders, guiding viewers through Kate's multi-faceted personality with conviction. 

Complementing the performances is a score that weaves through the narrative and subtly enhances the tension, transitioning smoothly from brittle, staccato strings to foreboding electro melodies. The palette is muted and location atmospheric, contributing to the film's unsettling atmosphere but inadequate lighting in certain scenes proved frustrating, obscuring the action in shadow.

"Motherly" excels at subverting expectations, delivering the unexpected to keep viewers on their toes with skillful direction preventing the narrative from becoming stagnant. The jump scares are used sparingly, with a chunk of hand-over-the-eyes visceral horror but this is all to the good as "Motherly" relies more on a well-crafted story than tired tropes to captivate its audience. You may not jump out of your skin but the escalating tension is punctuated with are plenty of  "I wasn't expecting that" moments.

While not necessarily a must-watch, "Motherly" is a very good watch, making for a satisfying experience. It may not reinvent the wheel, but its skillful execution and ability to keep the viewer guessing make it a creditable addition to the genre. 

4/5

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