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Mothers' Instinct


Stars: Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Josh Charles

Director: Benoit Delhomme

A slow, sombre story of grief and discomfort which, based on a 2018 film from France, goes full-blown psycho melodrama on us towards the end.

In this version, it's middle-class America circa 1960, and Alice (Chastain) and Celine (Hathaway) are young marrieds, each with a young son, and next-door best friends who could have stepped straight out of The Stepford Wives.

Everything in their well-ordered gardens is rosy until one suffers the loss of a child. Things gradually go downhill between them after that, until Chastain's mother dies from a heart attack (an autopsy reveals none of her heart medication in her system) and Chastain begins suspecting Hathaway of all sorts of dark deeds.

Is Chastain a neurotic fantasist who needs treatment? Or is Hathaway a mentally-unbalanced psycho up to no good? A final confrontation between them leads to a conclusion that would never have been acceptable to censors if the film had been made when it's set.

Hathaway isn't exactly cut out for this sort of thing, but she gives it a decent try, whereas Chastain struggles to suggest the two different explanations of her behaviour. The results never quite suppress audience giggles.

From all the Covid-related credits at the end, it looks as though this was made during lockdown, although there is no copyright date on the film whatsoever.

David Quinlan

USA 2023. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Technicolor.
94 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 27 Mar 2024