Identical twins Lukas and Elias spend their idyllic summer days chasing each other through cornfields, exploring dark caves, and floating on serene ponds in the beautiful Austrian countryside. Their tranquil days are disrupted one day when their mother returns home covered in bandages from some unexplained plastic surgery. Almost immediately the boys are wary of her. She is not only unsettling to look at; she somehow seems “different”. She lacks warmth and her personality has undergone a complete sea change. Furthermore she imposes a number of peculiar rules to the boys noting that they must allow her to sleep for generous amounts of time and they are not to make any noise in the house. As the days roll by the boys begin to suspect that she is not their mother at all and they become resolute in getting to the bottom of the mystery.
‘Goodnight, Mommy’ packs a wallop of slow build uneasiness. The fear comes from knowing that “something isn’t right” although there is little evidence that something is actually wrong. Long seemingly-innocuous shots suggest danger though the danger is unidentified. Has the mother really changed or are the twins overly sensitive to her new “rules” as she recovers from her recent surgery? The film challenges the notion of the unbreakable bond between a mother and her children and the unease comes from seeing that bond disintegrate. If I had one complaint about the film it is that early on I ignored red herrings and predicted the overall gestalt of the story which sapped some of the fun of the disturbing third reel. Still “Goodnight, Mommy” is terrific film-making and should not to be missed!