Home Mothers’ Instinct

Mothers' Instinct (15)

Cast: Anders Danielsen Lie, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Josh Charles
Genre: Thriller
Author(s): Sarah Conradt
Director: Benoit Delhomme
Release Date: 27/03/2024
Running Time: 94mins
Country: US
Year: 2024

Housewives and next-door neighbours Alice and Celine are devoted to their husbands in 1960s American suburbia. Alice is overly protective of her young son Theo, who has a peanut allergy, while Celine is more relaxed with her boy Max. A tragic fall robs Celine of her only child and Alice is a guilt-riddled witness to the accident. Alice senses her grief-stricken best friend blames her for the devastating loss and she nurtures an unshakable fear that Celine intends to seek revenge by killing Theo.


LondonNet Film Review

Mothers’ Instinct (15) Film Review from LondonNet

A mother’s love is a delicate rose with razor-sharp thorns in a handsomely cultivated English-language remake of Olivier Masset-Depasse’s 2018 psychological thriller Duelles. Transplanted from 1960s bourgeois Brussels to American suburbia, Mothers’ Instinct pits Oscar winners Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway against each other in a Hitchcockian plot that tightens the screws on best friends as they wrestle with grief and guilt in the aftermath of a tragic accident. Award-winning cinematographer Benoit Delhomme is well versed in conjuring striking period-specific imagery for filmmakers such as David Mamet (The Winslow Boy), Mike Figgis (Miss Julie), John Hillcoat (The Proposition), James Marsh (The Theory Of Everything) and Julian Schnabel (At Eternity’s Gate)…

For his directorial debut, Delhomme uses Masset-Depasse’s picture as a template to heighten discomfort and suspense, beginning with an unsettling opening sequence that suggests malevolent intent behind twitching net curtains. The artfully staged bluff allows Delhomme to revisit the scenario later in his film, this time without merciful concessions to gnawed nails and whitened knuckles. Sarah Conradt-Kroehler’s script shifts the balance of power between female protagonists, discharging the pent-up tension in a satisfyingly twisted final flourish guaranteed to drop a few jaws.

Alice (Chastain) and Celine (Hathaway) are next door neighbours, devoted to the upkeep of their impeccably furnished homes while their respective husbands Simon (Anders Danielsen Lie) and Damian (Josh Charles) go out to work and trap the wives in gilded cages of the era. While traditionalist Damian works in the pharmaceutical industry and is sole breadwinner, Simon is more progressive, supporting Alice’s professional dreams so long as she continues her measured recovery from a mental health crisis. The women’s parenting styles couldn’t be more different. Alice is overly protective of her young son Theo (Eamon O’Connell), who has a peanut allergy, while Celine is relaxed and poised with her boy Max (Baylen D Bielitz).

A tragic fall from an upstairs balcony robs Celine of her only child and Alice is a guilt-riddled witness to the accident. Alice senses her best friend blames her for the devastating loss and paranoia poisons the relationship. Celine requests to spend time with Theo as a coping mechanism, since she is unable to have more children. The boy’s grandmother Jean (Caroline Lagerfelt) urges quietly worded caution and an increasingly unhinged Alice becomes convinced that Celine intends to seek revenge by killing her precious Theo.

Mothers’ Instinct coolly bides its time, walking a tightrope strung between gnarly suspicion and incontrovertible fact. Our distress matches the characters’ and Chastain and Hathaway deliver compelling performances that beg uncomfortable questions about their homemakers’ mental wellbeing and rationality. Delhomme maintains a firm grip on pacing and tone to prevent Alice and Celine’s frosty rivalry from descending entirely into sweeping melodrama.

– Jo Planter


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