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'Night, Mother' Review

Night, Mother begins with two frames in a single frame which, according to their color and decorative texture, seem to be a single scene shot from two different angles. But as the characters move around within their frames, the frames appear to be showing a single scene shot at different times, trying to capture the past and the present perhaps.

There is one woman in each frame, which provokes the audience’s curiosity and allows them to speculate. At this moment, the best guess can be that probably the younger woman, grief-stricken at the loss of the older one (whom may be perceived as her mother), is reaching for her household items, opening her laptop, and the like, while the music reinforces the above notion. However, the filmmaker invalidates this speculation with a change of atmosphere.

The frames are replaced with new ones, selfie videos, and thus conveying a different meaning: the women, now clearly a mother and daughter, are video chatting. Knowing it is impossible to implement film cuts and create visual diversity in each frame, John Patrick Lowrie, the filmmaker, has developed the most engagingly riveting dialogues between the characters about everyday issues which include details that reveal each woman’s personality and mood, and besides grabbing the audience’s attention, introduce the characters and create intensive dramatic effect out of the mundane.

As the film proceeds, it becomes obvious that the filmmaker is going to limit himself to these two frames and not go beyond this style, a tough and extremely challenging style that can easily become the slaughterhouse of a movie and swallow everything up.

Director John Patrick Lowrie

In the history of cinema, many filmmakers have faced challenges as a result of deliberate self-imposed restrictions or constraints imposed on them by production conditions, challenges that sometimes culminate in brilliant, dazzling results and sometimes in disappointing outcomes. These restrictions come in many forms and styles. For example, spatial confinement where the filmmaker is constricted to closed spaces such as a house (as in the successful film "Death and the Maiden" by Roman Polanski), a limited number of characters (two or three), or a limited running time, for instance one-hour running time, which practically makes the presentation of events quite intensive, and the writer has to advance his story in a short period of time, reach the climax, and conclude.

Various sorts of restrictions exist in the history of cinema, and here in Night, Mother several restrictions can be identified: a limited running time (the story progresses in a specific and realistic direction with no cuts), a limited number of characters (two characters), spatial confinement (each character is filmed in their house, sitting at the same place throughout the film), and a limitation that is much more challenging than the previous ones: the limitation of the frame. For a vast part of the film, the filmmaker has practically bound himself to two frames from which he has no intentions of getting out. The audience is not going to be shown any other parts of the house, or of the eyes and hands of the characters, or of the other scenes with which the film began. And it is noteworthy that these restrictions are not meant for a short film, and even if they were, they would still be too difficult. Night, Mother is a one-hour feature film, and it has to uphold and follow all the limitations and rules it has set at the beginning to the end.

In this situation, what should the filmmaker do to keep his film alive, not let the pace decline or get boring, continue his story, and at the same time appeal to the viewer? In order to achieve all these, John Patrick Lowrie admirably intelligently starts with the characters. These two characters, mother and daughter, are created and developed so meticulously and obsessively that they can be a vessel for an absorbing narrative.

Characters with countless ups and downs, hopes and fears, obsessions and regrets, tears and laughs. Their relationship is full of peaks and valleys. It is familiar, understandable and tangible to many viewers. The performances are remarkably skillful, fervent, and simultaneously realistic and symbolic, representing the relationship of all the mothers and daughters in the world, relationships that have moments of joy, hate, annoyance, attachment, and longing. A relationship that, although constantly moving, is smartly punctuated with stillness—the stillness that comes after each storm and gives the viewer and the characters a chance to breathe.


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