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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Mama

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Isabelle Nelisse stars in a scene from the movie "Mama."
As thrillers go, "Mama" (Universal) is no more than competent. But director Andy Muschietti's film—which he co-wrote with his sister, Barbara, and Neil Cross—can be commended for avoiding gore and for the pro-family conversion in outlook experienced by one of its main characters.

Expanding their 2008 Spanish-language short, whose title was the Castilian version of the eponymous endearment, the Muschiettis tell the story of young sisters Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse).

After their parents die in violent circumstances—some details of which, though they happen early on, would constitute a spoiler—the girls spend years stranded in an isolated cabin in the woods. Eventually, though, searchers hired by their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) manage to track them down and rescue them.

Together with his live-in girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain), the drummer in a rock band, artist Lucas becomes the siblings' guardian and places them under the continued care of therapist Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash). (Dreyfuss was originally put on the case by the court determining the kids' custody.)

Dreyfuss works to overcome the children's feral ways, which include scrambling about on all fours and eating bugs and other nasty menu items. But disturbing events begin to suggest that the wraith-like figure of the title—who, so the little ones claim, looked after them in the wilderness—has followed them to civilization.

Predictably, the apparition's back story involves both an asylum and an orphanage. The latter institution is run by a staff of nuns who, though they're given scant screen time, are nonetheless portrayed in an endearing light.

If "Mama" has any thematic weight it derives from the transformation Annabel undergoes. Our first glimpse of her finds her offering a silent prayer of thanks in response to the negative outcome of an at-home pregnancy test. So only her devotion to Lucas drives her—despite considerable reluctance—to take on the role of parental stand-in to Victoria and Lilly. Yet, by the closing credits, she's become a fiercely dedicated adoptive mother, fighting for the duo's hearts as well as their survival.

Though this is hardly drama of the highest order, Annabel's positive spiritual path does present a welcome contrast to the innumerable templates of family dysfunction to be found at the local multiplex.

The film contains occasional bloodless violence, cohabitation, a brief nongraphic bedroom scene, a few uses of profanity as well as at least one rough and a handful of crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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