24 May 2023

At The Movies - The Mother

From At The Movies, 7:07 pm on 24 May 2023

Jennifer Lopez plays a homicidal parent protecting her daughter in this new thriller from Kiwi director Niki Caro.

Jennifer Lopez, by any standard, is remarkable.

She dances, she acts, she sings, she produces, she romances Ben Affleck several times. After 30 years, and her fair share of ups and downs, she's still looking good, at the top of her game.

Lopez's new film The Mother has gone straight to Netflix, which sadly is the fate for many genre thrillers these days.

We meet The Mother - no name given - when she's being held in a safe house by the FBI.

She's about to spill the beans on two high-level bad guys - Adrian and Hector - and it's pretty clear the Feds aren't fit for purpose.

JLo does the job for them - did you expect otherwise? - even though she's nine months pregnant. Wait... what?

The boss of the fatally incompetent FBI squad - a brief cameo from Edie Falco - advises the recovering J-Lo that she's now a real Mother, but she can't keep the baby.

With Hector and Adrian on their trail, she has no choice but to go solo. The selfless Mother agrees to go off the grid but tells FBI Agent Cruise to keep an eye on the baby.

Off the grid means Alaska. 12 years pass, not that you'd know it. The Alaskan climate must be good for the Mother's complexion.

And we wait for Agent Cruise to sound the alarm, otherwise, there's no movie. Without her child in danger - her name's Zoe, by the way - J-Lo can't turn into an action-movie Mother.

Zoe's taken and Jennifer hotfoots it to her rescue. And you soon notice one thing about the film - a rare action thriller from Kiwi director Niki Caro. It's mostly about one person and one person only.

There may be an endless supply of bad guys and a few FBI agents to get in the way, but The Mother is all about The Mother, meaning Jennifer Lopez.

So don't expect early friendships with Agent Cruise or Alaskan neighbour Jons to come to much. The Mother not only has no friends, she doesn't seem to need them.

She does require a daughter, and once she rescues Zoe, a certain amount of chemistry is cobbled together.

The hook at the start is that Zoe has no idea that this bad-tempered superwoman is in fact her birth mother. In fact, she's only interested in getting back home to her non-heroic adopted Mum.

This is clearly the part of the film that Niki Caro responded to most, and to the director's credit, it adds a little warmth to what could easily become a brutal video game.

But the mark of a film that's failing to grab my attention is when I become side-tracked by non-essential matters.

Like who came up with the names Hector and Adrian? They sound less like brutal gangsters and more like a couple of Cuba Street hairdressers.

Hector's played by former Mexican superstar Gael Garcia Bernal, who seems to be going through a quiet patch in his career.

The same seems to be the case with Adrian in a rather bigger role. Under all that scar makeup, it's Shakespeare himself - Joseph Fiennes, gritting his teeth and wrestling with Jennifer Lopez in the Arctic snow.

Niki Caro does a pretty good job of directing the action scenes, by the way, but the best thing she does is at the end when she wraps up the action with the Kate Bush classic 'This Woman's Work'.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to At The Movies

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)