Movie Information

Rodrigo Sorogoyen struggles to expand his Oscar-nominated short film to feature length.
Genre: Foreign Film/Drama/Thriller
Director: Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Starring: Marta Nieto, Jules Porier, Alex Brendemühl
Rated: NR

Who knew suspense could be so mundane? Such is the case with Madre, an unconventional drama from Spanish writer/director Rodrigo Sorogoyen (The Realm) that’s full of heartbreaking calamity, grief and a search for closure — seemingly at any cost — yet bizarrely yields only apathy.

Set on the French coast near Spain, the film is a tragedy in every sense of the word. As with Sorogoyen’s Oscar-nominated short by the same name on which it’s based, the film begins with single mom Elena (Marta Nieto) receiving a shocking call from her young son Ivan, who reveals he’s stranded on a beach with his father, who brought him there but is nowhere in sight. Distraught as any mother would be, Elena tries in vain to contact the authorities, then attempts to take matters into her own hands despite having no clue where her son may be. But minus information regarding how Ivan wound up in these circumstances, viewer investment remains limited.

Following an egregiously long shot of a coastline, Madre flashes forward 10 years and finds Elena working as the manager of a seaside dive bar frequented by seasonal residents, most of whom are wealthy vacation-home owners. Having never resolved the disappearance of her son on a criminal or emotional level, she befriends a forlorn teen named Jean (Jules Porier) who’s on vacation with his family — and, in her eyes, resembles Ivan.

Thus begins a connection between two damaged souls — a sure formula for disaster. Even against the wishes of her love interest, Joseba (Alex Brendenmuhl), Elena continually steals time with Jean, defying his parents’ wishes in the process. Inevitably doomed, their rendezvous culminate in an alarming act that proves her to be more demented than grief-stricken, climaxing in an act that can be seen from miles away.

It’s an unusual story, and Nieto is consistently superb, yet Madre still leaves plenty to be desired. Sorogoyen is so focused on Elena that he fails to develop the supporting cast — one of many failures that, combined with the success of his lauded short film, suggests that perhaps he should have left well enough alone.

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