January 27, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Sundance Film Festival Reviews: “I Am Mother” & “The Lodge”


I AM MOTHER (no distrib):  Grant Sputore’s impressively controlled first feature brings us back to the post-apocalypse.  In Michael Lloyd Green’s script, it appears as though the only surviving remnant of humanity is an unnamed girl (Clara Rugaard as a teen) raised from a fetus by a maternal robot (voiced by Rose Byrne).  Mother has told her adopted daughter that the world outside is uninhabitable, but there are reasons to doubt Mother’s motives even beyond the fact that her single central “eye” resembles the most famous movie supercomputer of them all.  There are conspicuous gaps in her narrative like why this girl is the only one of the 63,000 on-site preserved fetuses Mother has brought to life, or her stern requirements for the girl to take exams that are more psychological in nature than educational.  Then one night, while Mother is recharging, an injured woman (Hilary Swank) turns up at the bunker, upending the girl’s understanding of the world.  But is this woman any more trustworthy than Mother, just because she’s biologically human?  The resulting answers may be far-fetched, but to Sputore and Green’s credit, they make sense on their own terms.  Sputore is treading classic movie territory here, not just 2001, but Alien, The Terminator and Ex Machina among others, and he does so without tipping his hat too blatantly to any of them, and with a utilitarian visual style that leads to a surprisingly large-scale third act.  Rugaard holds the narrative together with intelligence and will, and Swank and Byrne are both effective as the girl’s competing moms.  There may not be enough heft to I Am Mother to earn it a wide release, but Sputore is a filmmaker to watch.

THE LODGE (no distrib):  Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s last film Goodnight Mommy was (this is a compliment) one of the sickest horror films in recent memory.  Their follow-up The Lodge, co-written with Sergio Casci, may not be as extravagantly berserk, but it gnaws its way into your nervous system.  Although the distressed family at the center of The Lodge is devoted to 1980s horror, they seem either never to have seen The Shining or to have learned nothing from it, since they think a snowbound, isolated house in the mountains is a good place to recover after Richard’s (Richard Armitage) estranged wife, mother of Aiden (Jaeden Lieberher) and Mia (Lia McHugh), has killed herself after learning that Richard wants a divorce so he can marry Grace (Riley Keough).  Richard, the kind of idiot every horror movie needs, tells Grace and the kids that they’ll learn to get along if he leaves them alone at the lodge.  Oh, and Grace herself is the sole survivor of a suicidal religious cult run by her own father.  The question quickly becomes:  who is the most dangerous person there?  Franz and Fiala do an expert job of gradually ramping up the hostility until it becomes terror, and blurring the edges between reality and what may be something far more disturbing.  When the explanations finally arrive, they don’t bear a great deal of scrutiny, but they clear the way for a pitch-black steel trap of an ending.  Keough gives another standout performance, often heartbreaking and horrifying at the same time, and the two young actors hold to her level.  Special notice should go as well to cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis, composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Juriaans, and production designer Sylvain Lemaitre, and to the eerie editing by Michael Palm, all of whom contribute to The Lodge‘s ability to keep you constantly on edge.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."