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Night, Mother

Written by: Marsha Norman |   Directed by: John Patrick Lowrie |  Genre: Drama

As the pandemic raged, filmmakers needed to get creative with how they tell their stories, and Night, Mother not only shines as a pandemic-created film but also uses the pandemic itself while it reminds its audience that depression can be just as scary… and deadly. Writer and director Marsha Norman and John Patrick Lowrie give us a harrowing account of the effects of depression. Long-term and short-term as Jesse (Sheila Houlahan) Zooms her mom with the intention of one last conversation before she kills herself.

This declaration comes early, and as you can imagine, this shocking news is not taken lightly for very long. “Where’s daddy’s gun?” I found myself asking what I would think if my child asked that very same question. My answer is that like Jesse’s mother, played beautifully by Ellen McLain, I would probably instantly think my child was frightened… perhaps by the possibility of burglars such as done in this video. Thinking my child wanted to kill herself would be at the back of my mind. As the start of this video played across my screen, I instantly understood what must have been going through Jesse’s mother’s mind. Watching the rest of the film unfold was heartbreaking. The different stages of Jesse’s mom’s reaction all the way until the end broke my heart, as did the mindset of Jesse herself. Make no mistake. This is an unconventional video, but it is as powerful and dramatic as they come.

“I don’t like how things are.” is what Jesse says during one of the scenes. It’s a simple enough phrase, but it wonderfully explains what could be going through the mind of many suicidal people. It’s as complicated as it is deep. Night, Mother is full of complexity as it attempts to bring to screen the mind of a severely depressed person. At the same time, it is also simple. Sometimes there is no logical answer. Depression is mysterious. Night, Mother also brings up genetics, upbringing, and a host of other possibilities but never definitively states one particular cause. How could it? Nobody really knows. The happiest seeming people are often the ones who are the most depressed. I liked how this film never tried to sugarcoat that or take away from it, and Houlahan and McLain deliver wonderful and powerful performances. Most of this is a zoom call visually, but the performances make it so much more.

Night, Mother is from the gut, and its characters are instantly real and recognizable. The characters are not Hollywood/TV stereotypes and are far from perfect. From broken relationships to often hard family life, these are people you immediately know and can relate with. Sixty minutes and worth every second. 3.5/5 stars. Thank you for reading.

“Night, Mother” on Twitch | Official Trailer 2 from Night, Mother On Twitch on Vimeo.

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