Most films depict motherhood as a loving and unbreakable union between a mother and a child. The bedtime stories. The tickles. The hand drawn pictures hung on the refrigerator with pride. The good things. Motherly, on the other hand, chooses a darker approach by examining the burdens and the pressures that go along with making sure your child has everything they need. No matter the cost.
Motherly follows a newly single mother, Kate, and her daughter, Beth, as they adjust to living alone in a secluded farmhouse. Beth’s father is in jail, facing charges of a brutally violent crime. Kate’s hopes of settling in for a quiet night at home are soon shattered as things begin to go bump in the night. Someone, or something, is in the house. This is a secluded farmhouse in the woods, after all. Would we expect anything less?
The film carries and balances a variety of genres. Blending elements of horror, thriller and drama into a tautly paced story. Filmmaker Craig David Wallace wastes no time, launching the story full force into turmoil and maintaining the throttle throughout. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way. Many of them are predictable, and the finale can be seen coming nearly an hour before it arrives. This is perhaps Motherly’s biggest flaw. So much of the finale 1/3 of the film revolves around a single incident. A mystery being solved and answers being given one bit at a time. Sounds great. Except most viewers will have the mystery solved about halfway through the story. This doesn’t completely take away from the experience. There is still a lot to enjoy as the film unravels, much of that thanks to the performances and dedication of the cast.
If you ask most horror fans who the most obnoxious child in cinema is, you will likely hear one answer above all other. The kid from The Babadook. And they’re not wrong. But Beth gives him a run for his money. She is a self centered and bratty child who grated my nerves for nearly every minute she was on screen. That’s no fault to actress Tessa Kozma. If anything, it’s to her credit. The young actress gives a complicated performance, delivering a myriad of emotions. It’s no easy task to make a character so unlikable and it’s a testament to her talent.
It’s clear that Motherly was shot on a low budget, and that is honestly one of the best things it has going for it. Horror filmmakers have a way of taking small budgets and turning them into works of terrifying art. Sam Raimi with The Evil Dead. George A. Romero with Night of the Living Dead. Motherly feels raw. Stripped of digital special affects, big names or jump scare clichés (well, mostly.) Motherly is going to be a hit with fans of the horror genre. But hopefully it lands with a wider audience, as well. It’s a film that doesn’t confine itself to a single lane. It does it’s best to create a complex weave of mystery, even though the mystery is easily solved by the halfway point. Motherly manages to be unique. An increasingly difficult task in the world of cinema. 7/10