Hollywood has a problem with subtitles. The American film industry is afraid of subtitles. So much so that when the opportunity arises, they are willing to make an entire film all over again in their language, if that means they don’t have to trust that the audience can read subtitles on a film. For audiences outside the USA, it is a baffling fear, as watching movies in their original language is just part of experiencing the medium. However, for American audiences and for American film producers, you don’t do that. Let’s review Goodnight Mommy, another remake that can’t justify its existence.
Goodnight Mommy is a film directed by Matt Sobel, and it is the remake of the Austrian film of the same name, released in 2014. The film stars Naomi Watts, and Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti. The film tells the story of two twins who are experiencing a weird situation when their mother, an actress, comes back home after receiving plastic surgery. The twins begin to suspect that the woman behind the bandages might not be their real mother, but something else, something more monstrous.
The original Goodnight Mommy was released in 2014, and it was directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, who have continued to direct horror movies since then and who just recently released The Lodge, starring Riley Keough. The film was instantly considered a solid example of the new kind of horror cinema that would become a staple of studios like A24. The film had some terrific imagery, but it was more focused on creating tension and atmosphere than on delivering gore, or terrifying creatures. It is one of those movies that suggest more than what it says out loud.
So, when the news came that somebody had bought the rights for a remake, it was red flags all over. The original film is a very solid piece of filmmaking, and it feels like a remake could add nothing to it. The remake has now been released, and the answer to the question of what it added to the original was what we all expected. This remake of Goodnight Mommy follows the plot step by step, but it lacks the tension and atmosphere of the original film. The kind of tension and atmosphere that can only be replicated once and under the very specific conditions of being a European film.
Naomi Watts is one of our favorite and best actresses working today. Sadly, she has the bad luck of getting trapped in very bad projects. She shines anyway in everything she does, but here, her talent is not enough to carry the film from beginning to end. Her performance is great, and the movie pays more attention to the fact that the mother in the movie is someone full of vanity who doesn’t really care that much for her sons. This is something that is a subtext in the original film, but it is made clearer in this remake.
The twins, The Crovetti brothers, have seen their time in the spotlight in the past few years. Cameron, in particular, has found himself also starring in The Boys, which is one of the most popular shows on Amazon Prime Video. As a pair, the two aren’t the best actors around, that is for sure, but they don’t need to be. The role is made to be so distant and cold that you don’t really feel anything in particular for the kids. In the original, you felt a bit of shame and pity because these kids showed that they really needed love, but nothing was given to them.
Visually, the movie follows the same techniques and tries to replicate the same atmosphere as the original. It fails because this is an American movie, and things are done in a very particular way. Meanwhile, the original was made in Austria, where things are also done in a very particular way. The movie adds nothing when it comes to the presentation of the story, so it makes you wonder why picking up the rights to remake a film and then doing nothing interesting with it. Is the fact that you watch the same story with no subtitles enough to justify this movie existing?
When the end comes, and the twist plays out, you feel the same way as you did in the original film. Not because it was well-made, but because the original film also has the same flaws in its narrative as this remake. The twist is supposed to be surprising, but there are enough clues throughout the film that when it comes, it makes you feel more like “finally” than anything else.
The remake of Goodnight Mommy serves as a reminder that Hollywood needs to understand that they are not the center of the industry anymore. These efforts to remake films from other countries and do nothing to change or improve them need to stop. Changing the spoken language of a film from Austrian to English isn’t enough, there are dubs for that. Maybe if you didn’t watch the original, you can extract something from it, but even so, this remake of Goodnight Mommy is very hard to love.