M.O.M. MOTHER OF MONSTERS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: TUCIA LYMAN / STARRING: EDWARD ASNER, MELINDA PAGE HAMILTON, JUILAN DE LA CELLE, BAILEY EDWARDS / RELEASE DATE: VOD OUT NOW
There’s a refreshingly individual aesthetic to Tucia Lyman’s home-footage style directorial debut. The embattled double-act of troubled single mom Abi (Page Hamilton, best known for Netflix’s Messiah, How to Get Away with Murder) and her potentially psychopathic sixteen-year-old son Jacob (Edwards) carry the story in the form of Abi’s video diaries, an attempt to claw back control of her life and sanity as her son’s behaviour escalates. But which of them, if either, has survived to be selecting the clips we clicking open on the computer desktop?
Bailey Edwards gives a central performance to remember: powerful, sinister and as believably young and vulnerable as he is aggressive and unpredictable. There are moments of captivating chemistry where we just about envisage mother and son pulling themselves back from this toxic balance of power, before Jacob’s controlling behaviour or Abi’s refusal to confront her own past pull them back from each chance for a better future.
Overinvestment in the power and intimacy of Abi’s not-so-secret camera confessionals means the tension doesn’t quite cut it in terms of pace or run-time. In spite of how well cast Hamilton and Edwards clearly are, there’s greater reliance on pauses than the dialogue is strong enough to carry and the third act drags where it should get the biggest sparks.
Abi’s reasons for wanting to prove her son a potential murderer leak out with the past she’s not prepared to go into, happily and self-deludedly confiding in the cameras but never in the professionals whose help she wants. This speaks volumes about our era but at the cost of our sympathy so lowers the stakes, falling short of what a story based on the testimonies and journals of real school shooters and their parents deserves. Important questions are touched on without ever quite being asked: musical underscoring includes lyrics about Trump, guns and schools with greater clarity on M.O.M.’s apparent message than the action of its actual script. M.O.M.’s not offering any answers, but that is not the problem: with an issue this big, the questions it asks need to be a whole lot clearer.