- Hamish Hart
The Mother (2023) Review
APTLY named after its lead, Netflix's The Mother is a showcase for Jennifer Lopez in what may just be her most gritty performance since diving into the acting world. The rest of the movie however fails to reach the same level of quality, becoming just another Netflix flick that doesn't over-exceed and is comfortable in getting the job done.
An unnamed operative known only as "The Mother" (Jennifer Lopez) forms an unlikely alliance with arms dealer Hector Alvarez (Gael Garcia Bernal); an alliance which turns their mission on their head following "The Mother" unexpectedly becoming pregnant. But when an attack on base leaves everyone except her unharmed, "The Mother" decides to pursue the unknown threat whilst protecting her unborn child.
Aside from some obvious plot differences, The Mother borrows many of its solitary elements from other action successes such as Rambo, and most blatantly, Commando due to the parent-daughter relationship. Nowadays its hard to criticise a film for being unoriginal -- and The Mother at least tries to take a different direction with these straightforward concepts. Commando is about a man searching for his kidnapped daughter while The Mother keeps the child close and unborn for much of the flick, giving the viewer more of an unspoken connection between Lopez's pregnant commando and her unborn child. Subtle differences like this can change the perception of a movie, and in this rare instance, it was a decision that avoided what would've been an otherwise boring, conventional story.
There is one major element that keeps the movie alive -- and that is Jennifer Lopez's shockingly effective performance as "The Mother". Her acting career has been subpar and forgettable, primarily focusing on either rom-coms or animated features, but not since her motherly performance in 2019's Hustlers have we seen this side of the popstar. Lopez comes across much more lonesome in this role, exuding moments of self-reflection and doubt as she comes to terms with the idea of raising a child in her secretive world. Many of these emotions were no doubt drawn right from her own life, being a biological mother of five herself. Director Niki Caro has also proven herself to be terrific in terms of directing actors to a standout performance, driving the likes of Frances McDormand and Charlize Theron to Oscar-nominated roles, and while this latest film will certainly not secure Jennifer Lopez similar accolades, this is without question the best J-Lo we've gotten on screen which is a great accolade in itself.
The Mother is an interesting movie to dissect. There are some standout moments which by themselves are fantastic, but the overall package lingers on far too long to be enjoyable. Jennifer Lopez does her absolute best in this unsurprisingly-motherlike role, but despite her best efforts, Netflix's The Mother fails to leave any ever-lasting impact and in the end feels like a movie you would put on in the background and check-in on occasionally. But in those special moments, there's nothing wrong with a movie like that.