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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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Apollonia: The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned. 
<p>While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.</p><p>There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.</p> American Catholic Blog We can find Christ among the despised, voiceless, and forgotten of the world. We have to move beyond that which we wish to ignore and forget about: embrace the seemingly un-embraceable, love the unlovable, and dare to know what we most fear and wish to leave unknowable.

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