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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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Augustine of Hippo: A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. 
<p>There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother, the instructions of Ambrose and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love. </p><p>Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism. </p><p>In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).</p> American Catholic Blog Pope Francis said, “The Church gives us the life of faith in Baptism: that is the moment in which she gives birth to us as children of God, the moment she gives us the life of God, she engenders us as a mother would.”

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