Parents' Guide to

Mother (2020)

By JK Sooja, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Dark, brutal depiction of abusive parenting; violence, sex.

Movie NR 2020 126 minutes
Mother (2020) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 13+

What I enjoyed in this film was how it portrayed that familial love can be truly unshakable, young Shuhei had multiple offers and opportunities to leave his mother and get a better life from the responsible adults in his life. However, he knew that if he had done so his mother would've likely ended up dead from her own mistakes and irresponsibility. As Shuhei's mother Akiko truly embodies the fable of "The Scorpion and the Frog". Insofar that Akiko can't help but make choices that negatively impact her and her son's life. At one point even leading to their being homeless and sleeping on the streets. In all of this Shuhei endures the hardship that his mother leads them to, and protects her even when she does not truly appreciate him. Not because he needs his mother to live or anything as she's actually holding him back from greatness, but because he knows that he alone is the only one who will ever love and care about his mother unconditionally. As even when Akiko's parents and sister disowned her, her son Shuhei was there for her every step of the way. I appreciated Shuhei's character greatly, as in my personal life I've had friendships that have ended over a petty argument. In the end this story truly followed the philosophy of "Show, don't tell" when it came to portraying unconditional love. I found this movie and its story very powerful, and it made me think about how few people in this world will still care about you even when you're an inconvenience to them.
age 14+

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (1 ):

Tatsushi Ohmori captures the tragic grip and violent destruction of abuse, but offers no light at the end of the tunnel, no redemption for its characters or viewers, and no pleasure in watching. Mother is hard to stomach, not only because of its overt violence (like the numerous times Ryo beats Akiko) but also because of the emotional violence it shows being inflicted upon young Shuhei. These heart-wrenching moments heavily outnumber those of love, goodness, or joy, like when Fuyuka sees a mattress in the new room set up for them by the social worker and says, "Yay! A mattress!" while promptly jumping on it. Or when Akiko repeatedly forces Shuhei away from school and learning, sometimes literally throwing his books away. The film is a series of increasingly horrible scenes, many of them sexual and many of them violent. Moments of hope quickly get dashed by the abusive boyfriend or by the selfishness of Akiko. At some point she seems to lose altogether any sense of humanity and tells her son to kill her parents, his grandparents, but this jump to murder seems sudden and is delivered too casually. Further, when Akiko tells a now older Shuhei that the grandparents' deaths are "the only way to get money," the inquisitive and smart Shuhei would've known not to believe his mother. But he agrees anyway.

Mother doesn't examine how disempowered, disenfranchised, or marginalized people can often end up committing immoral and criminal behavior; it just shows these behaviors. And yet, if the film offers a take on how a young boy could kill his grandparents, it clearly suggests that the only explanation in this instance is simply that the mother is wholly to blame because just look at how evil she was, just look at how she raised her son. While this may be true, it offers no conclusion, happy ending, or enlightening lesson. Nothing emerges from all the horror. Akiko never shows any remorse for her often-spiteful words to Shuhei or for leaving him countless times or for telling him to kill his grandparents. It's a display of the complete taking advantage of a young child's love for his mother, no matter how bad, damaged, ill, or toxic she might be. Some may find some cinematic beauty here, but most will just find difficulty. The performaces are quite amazing, though, and especially those from the kids.

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