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The Mother


‘…With triggering sub-plots involving human and child trafficking, The Mother is, like the central character, strong-minded, physically adept and tuned into today’s issues…’

My regular readers will intuitively understand that this critic has made a point of stanning for the singer, actor, producer and unstoppable creative force that is the one and only Jennifer Lopez; sure, there’s a cognoscenti consensus that’s she’s great in high profile hits like Out of Sight and Hustlers, but I’ve made a point of trying to shed new light on Lopez zingers like Anaconda, Second Act or this year’s Shotgun Wedding. The Mother is a more serious prospect than most of the films in that second group, and that seriousness is welcome; Lopez is very much an old-school movie star whose hands-on production credits mean that her fingerprints are usually all over the script, giving each movie a specific flavour of how Lopez calls it, and The Mother, surfacing this weekend on Netflix, is no exception to that rule.

‘I don’t want to shoot wolves,’ says The Mother (Lopez), a nameless US military operative whose special power is being an awesome AF sniper. But we join The Mother in media res, with a tightly controlled opening that shows her being questioned by the FBI in a remote shack which comes under attack from an unknown source; it’s only seconds before a home-made bomb blows the place to smithereens that we discover that The Mother is heavily pregnant. The baby is born, but the circumstances surrounding the birth of Zoe (Lucy Peaz) mean that she is put up for adoption, and The Mother has to forge a second career trying to be good by not being round, culling wildlife in Alaska for the next twelve years. ‘She’s not Hector’s, and she’s not Adrian’s, she’s mine,’ The Mother says of Zoe, but now that Zoe is a teenager, old flame arms dealer Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) and scarface ex-SAS man Adrian (Joseph Fiennes) both have nefarious designs on how to exploit The Mother’s daughter.

There’s acres of spy stuff going down right now on streaming, from Rabbit Hole to The Citadel to True Lies to The Night Agent, but The Mother stands out from the crowd by taking itself, and its central character, deadly seriously. The action is small-scale and brutal, and Lopez reins in her usual and undisputable comedic gifts to portray a bitter, edgy, chain-smoking character. One elaborate chase sequence, starting on foot and continuing via motorcycles and cars through Havana streets, throws a number of obstacles in The Mother’s path, with shoving nuns, little children and even a wedding bouquet somehow getting between a mother and her daughter. It might sound OTT, but it works as a way of showing how the conventional signifies of female romance and success work against rather than for Lopez’s sympathetic character in Niki Caro’s thriller.

Lopez also finds a formidable adversary in the later stages of the film, and it’s not either of the male villains she’s up against. Zoe’s character is surprisingly well defined via her innocent dislike of The Mother’s tough, protective methods (‘I’m not eating Bambi’s mom’ she complains when The Mother serves up venison. ‘You’re not eating Bambi’s dad, that was a stag’ her mother corrects her. ‘Anyway, it’s a rabbit, so it’s Thumper’). The Mother, like many Lopez protagonists, fears anonymity and mediocrity, working as ‘a cashier in a retail chain.’ But The Mother eventually accepts that some kind of ordinary life is required if she wants to maintain any contact with a daughter who constantly kicks back against her tough love ; the constant tension between mom and kid elevates The Mother to a level deeper than most thrillers. With triggering sub-plots involving human and child trafficking, The Mother is, like the central character, strong-minded, physically adept and tuned into today’s issues; if all you want is a watered-down Bond, look elsewhere, but The Mother is another impressive feat from a star who, like her character here, has been consistently underestimated.


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    • The Cell is probably worth a revisit. I’m not up to date with her music, but this works like Salt or The Accountant; intense espionage stuff with a personal twist.

  1. Trailer looks good. Jennifer Lopez’s name followed immediately by the key takeaway at 1:52. Doubt I’ll ever get a chance to see any more of it than this though.

  2. I passed over this last night and watched our bluray of The Meg instead, but I’ll put it on the list for next Saturday. Yep.

  3. Don’t you worry, if lil’ ol’ J-Lo won’t shoot those wolves, I’ll gladly step up and stand in the gap.
    A nice wolf burger on a bunty bun with some ketchup and mayo, yummmmm!

  4. You have sold me on this one!

    Sounds like a thriller with a beating heart, and who couldn’t love one of those.

    I must say, I never would’ve had “‘I don’t want to shoot wolves,’ on my J-Lo Bingo card.

    I’m particularly fond of her film “Enough” so I’ll give this a try

    • I watched this last night, and am much more intune with the high 70’s audience score on Rotten Tomatoes than the underwater critics score. And this should provide a good few chapters on my thesis on Jenny from the Block…I’d go so far as to say that this is classic Lopez, and that’s a big recommend for me!

      • You’re spot on about her being an old-school movie star, which are more and more rare these days.

        Classic Lopez always worth a look.

        (And man, cold take, but she was great in Hustlers)

        • Oscar noms are no indication of quality, but she really should have got one for Hustlers. But she’s never a passenger, she’s the driving force behind every film she makes.

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