A mother and daughter spend an evening talking to each other via a Zoom call, where the daughter confesses her desire to kill herself in the short film Night, Mother.
In what was a first for us here at Screen Critix, we watched a film on the Twitch platform. We don’t know a great deal about Twitch, with our knowledge mainly consisting of video gamers streaming their games live for all to see. So it was a surprise for us to be given a movie to review via Twitch. It was also surprising to find out that the film was actually performed live on there by two very capable actresses.
A mother called Thelma (Ellen McLain) gets together on a Zoom call with her daughter Jesse (Sheila Houlahan) for what seems like an innocent catch-up. Things start to take a turn for the worse when Jesse explains to her mother that she is, not only ready to die, but is preparing to kill herself once the zoom call has finished.
Thelma at first believes that Jesse isn’t really serious, but as the conversation continues during the one-hour runtime, she comes to realize that, not only is her daughter serious, but the Zoom call might very well be the last time they both ever speak to each other. Of course, Thelma tries to talk Jesse out of shooting herself with her deceased father’s old gun. She even comes clean about some personal home truths. Trying to keep calm, the suicidal Jesse asks her Thelma questions regarding her mother ever really loving her father.
With Jesse going through a messy breakup herself and suffering from some epileptic fits, times have been rough for her, yet we see her actually welcome death with a sad smile. It’s all very moving, which is helped by two actresses doing phenomenally well with their performances. With nearly all of the movie being shown on two monitors as the call continues, except for a few little flashbacks of Jesse’s memories interwoven with the video call, the film needed the two actresses to shine in order for it to work, and shine they did.
If you’re reading this and thinking “this story actually sounds familiar”, well this is a new adaption of the Pulitzer-winning play by Marsha Norman. It was already turned into a movie back in 1986, with Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft playing the roles of Jesse and Thelma, respectively. Funnily enough, when asked if she was surprised she wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in ‘night, Mother, Anne Bancroft replied that she should have been given an Oscar for all the lines she had to memorize.
Yes, there are a lot of lines of dialogue in this new adaption, which has been modernized for the audience of today, as there was no such thing as Zoom back then. Yet, with even so many lines and without having the luxury of cuts (it was performed live, remember?) both McLain and Houlahan do remarkably well. It’s very impressive.
So, while it is a rather small two-header, Night, Mother is an instantly moving and watchable sixty minutes, mainly thanks to the script, and the two towering performances of its leading ladies. Great work.