Weekend Binge: This Mother’s Day, 5 controversial films you should never, ever show your mom
Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.
While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.
In 2017 alone - and that too in a one-month period - we saw three phenomenal films that made an honest-to-God attempt at demystifying the most complicated of relationships, that of mothers and their children. None of these films are similar in any way. Neither are the mothers (and the kids) whose stories they tell. But what unites Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and I, Tonya are the relationships at their centre. In their own unique way, these movies offer a harsh look at a bond that is routinely romanticised in movies.
Since these films are so recent and so acclaimed, it’s likely that you’ve flirted with the idea of watching them. So consider this a reminder, in case you’ve been too busy with Avengers or whatever. However, since it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, how about we continue this train of thought? Instead of watching heart-wrenching accounts of unconditional love, how about we try to experience a more controversial - and definitely more believable - take on this relationship?
Watching Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical allegory will convince you that he is deranged - and I mean this in the best way possible. And so is everyone who had the courage to say ‘yes’ to his insane vision - the likes of which we really don’t see too often these days. Especially Jennifer Lawrence, who plays a literal, metaphorical and thematic mother figure. She is Mother Earth, Mother Mary and Gaia, all rolled into one ethereally beautiful physical form for men to gawk at, to rob of her identity, and to abuse. I hope this sets the tone for the sort of films we’re going to talk about here.
Spanking the Monkey
Before his hat-trick of successful collaborations with Jennifer Lawrence (she’s everywhere, isn’t she?), director David O Russell gained notoriety for being a pain to work with in I Heart Huckabees (videos of him verbally abusing his cast are easily available online). But before that, he made his feature debut with a movie that is often spoken about in hushed tones - a film whose euphemistic title doesn’t even begin to betray the deeply taboo story at its centre. If you thought Psycho and The Manchurian Candidate were disturbing, wait till you see this one. It’s a comedy.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Director Lynne Ramsay’s clinical style is the perfect match for this icy exploration of a failed mother-son relationship. Tilda Swinton stars as Eva, who has never been able to form a bond with her son, played by the always great Ezra Miller. It’s a situation that’s as troubling (and bemusing) for her as it is for her son. This emotion distance between the two has obvious (and rather drastic) repercussions, which gives Ramsay an excuse to dismantle yet another concept: School shootings in the US. Controversially, Ramsay chooses to humanise Kevin, she gives him a back story, she offers explanations for his actions, which is something that annoys a certain section of the public, but there you have it. By now you know what you’re in for.
To this day, I’d include Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s movie on my list of the best films of the decade. Dolan, who made his debut at Cannes at the age of 19, has noticeably matured with age. Mommy shares many thematic similarities with his first film, I Killed My Mother, and it could be considered a spiritual sequel. Anne Dorval is stunning as a single mom to a troubled boy. Their frequent shouting matches invariably end in violence, and they’re gut-wrenching to watch. But Dolan’s dreamlike style tempers this realism - he is a master at using popular music to balance the harshness (you’ve probably seen his music video for Adele’s Hello). Dolan shot Mommy in the Instagram ratio, as it is popularly known these days - but he breaks out of this claustrophobia on one joyous, unforgettable occasion. It’s probably the best film on this list, which is saying something.
A trio of excellent performances elevates Catherine Hardwicke’s Thirteen into what it is - a classic of the American independent movement. Holly Hunter, in an Academy Award nominated performance as an alcoholic single mother more concerned about her new boyfriend than her daughter, delivers what is probably the performance of her career. It is also an early glimpse at the talents of Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed - who reunited with Hardwicke in the first Twilight movie - and a reminder that Hardwicke had broken the glass ceiling years before Patty Jenkins.