John Patrick Lowrie
If you've got the guts to kill yourself, you've got the guts to live. That's a powerful statement that, on the surface, is not only logical but also opens the door to some serious intellectual debate. But, unfortunately, the desire to end your own life is rarely dependent on logic or talking it through. Sure, talking can help, as can a good support system, but in the end, if a person truly wants to end their own life, it's only a matter of when. Counseling and support can only go so far, and when a person decides it's time, well, reader, it's time. Unfortunately, for many reasons, including anger, depression, and loneliness - sometimes suicide seems like the only answer, and this film, "Night, Mother," explores just that.
In the movie, an unemployed woman, Jessie, is having a Zoom conversation with her mother, and almost straight away, we learn that Jesse is going to kill herself - and decides her mother should know as well. What starts as a seemingly normal chat quickly takes a darker turn, and along the way, we learn quite a bit about Jessie, her life, and perhaps even her reasoning. As you may have guessed, Jesse's mother jumps back and forth from disbelief to outright horror as she attempts to talk her daughter down. Through the process, there's a lot to be learned about the family relationship, which is the heart of the film. "Night, Mother" has some powerful content, no question, and without spoiling any more of the film, let me say this. This isn't a flick that directly tries to answer any of the obvious questions, and yet at the same time, it's a realistic window into the mind of a suicidal person. How does it all end? I'll write that it's powerful and urge you to check it out for yourself when you get the chance.
"Night, Mother" is without question a well-acted, powerful narrative. It's so believable that, at times, you may think you are seeing a true-to-life Zoom conversation between a mother and daughter. Yet, at the same time, this is a movie that, in my humble opinion, seems to be missing something. What, you ask? The actual "movie" aspect of the film. I had a really tough time with what I thought I would rate this film because honestly? It's not "really" a film. Sure, some sequences show the characters doing various things in their homes or brief montage like clips scattered throughout - but mostly "Night, Mother" is a split-screen Zoom conversation. Is there a narrative? Sure. But a YouTube video or even time-lapse videos can also have a narrative. So this film doesn't really qualify as a "true" film, in my opinion - and yet at the same time, I was compelled to keep watching. Almost uncontrollably. In the end, I decided a very respectable three and a half stars was the least I could rate this title. The subject matter is too important, and the way it all plays out was just too much to ignore.
At the end of the day, "Night, Mother" really was an excellent video - that to me was just not quite a film. The portrayals felt real and gritty, and it really does play off like a real Zoom call between mother and daughter. For what this film lacks in a traditional movie presentation, it more than makes up for in so many other ways. Maybe, like Jesse's mother, I'm simply too old school with the way I think about film - but I do know what I like, and "Night, Mother" was definitely it. Not to be ignored and a solid three and a half stars.