2017 saw the release of two films named after the mater individual of the family unit and this one is definitely an improvement on Darren Aronofsky mother!. Which, in fairness, isn’t saying much. The supposed depth of mother! gets filled in rather quickly when you realise it’s just about human destruction of the planet with religious allegorical overtones. Just a slightly dumb down version of Begotten (1990), really.

But yes, another film titled Mother, or rather Madre came out in 2017, as a short, Spanish language, mystery.

After returning from shopping, Marta (Marta Neito) and her Mother (Blanca Apilánes) receive a phone call from Marta’s six-year-old Iván (Álvaro Balas) who is holidaying with her ex-partner. Or rather should be, as Iván’s father has left him alone on a deserted beach. Marta tries to calm the frightened Iván only to find out that he’s over the border in France and that he can see a strange man approaching him from the distance. You would think with a plot like that Madre is a horror film. I suppose to an extent it is, every parent’s worst nightmare would be to discover that their child is lost, alone and afraid in a strange place, allegedly.

A bottle ship film; the events are consigned to Marta apartment. Iván exists only as a voice on the other side of the desperate and panicked conversation. After a few moments, it feels like we are watching a one-act play. All the action is captured in a single, unbroken, follow shot that makes the audience feel like interlopers, that this is a private family affair that we’ve stumbled into and shouldn’t be watching.

The ambiguity of the ending opens so much of the story to debate. Is the strange man a threat or just a concerned member of the public that has come across a lost child? Is there something else at play here? Has something happened to Marta’s ex?

Despite this, there is something off with the film. Its runtime is both too short and too long. A few more minutes could have added more to the story without taking away the sense of mystery. A few less could have heightened the already palpable level of the tension to an almost physical oppressive force for the viewer.

An interesting mystery thriller that achieves a high degree of subtext by not spoon feeding us the answers and letting our own minds fill in the blanks.

Dir: Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Scr: Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Cast: Marta Neito, Blanca Apilánes, Álvaro Balas
Prd: María del Puy Alvarado, Rodrigo Sorogoyen
DOP: Alejandro de Pablo
Music: Olivier Arson
Country: Spain
Runtime: 19 minutes

By Pat Fox