Mammoth (2009) Dir. Lukas Moodysson

Mammoth takes us on a journey through life, family, different cultures, and cosmos. It studies people’s emotions and reactions in various surroundings. Finally, it shows how much a family has to go through to get to one moment of peace and happiness.

Mammoth is all about family. The Vidales are young, beautiful, and well off. Leo (Gael García Bernal) deals in video games, making a fortune on that; Ellen (Michelle Williams) works as a surgeon, brilliant and dedicated; Jackie (Sophie Nyweide) — their daughter — strikes as an inquisitive kid, talented at science and languages. On the surface, a picture perfect family. Even the opening scene suggests just that: the three of them being happy together. Pure and simple. Unfortunately, this image is pretty quickly shattered by events and circumstances surrounding them. Ellen has to face a difficult case of a boy severely stabbed by his own mother. Leo has to deal with being away from his family on a business trip to Thailand. And Jackie gets caught up in a sort of rivalry between her nanny Gloria and her mom Ellen.

Once again, Mammoth is all about family. Gloria (Marife Necesito), originally from the Philippines, lives and takes cares of the Vidales household. She is willing to work hard for a better life for her two sons. Her job suits her, and she’s quite attached to Jackie, but she misses her boys so much it’s almost killing her. She admits at one point it breaks her heart to be apart. Yet, she stays in the States for them and for their future, calling them occasionally.

Mammoth also talks about motherhood. Lukas Moodysson asks what it takes to be a bad mother. Then, he presents how to be a good one. Ellen is torn apart between work and home. She feels she neglects her own daughter, who becomes more and more attached to Gloria emotionally. In a way, Ellen feels excluded from Jackie’s life, not having enough influence on it. She blames herself, concluding she’s a bad mother. Paradoxically, the time she should, or would like to spend with Jackie, she devotes to the wounded boy, the boy stabbed by his mother (in comparison, Ellen turns out a wonderful parent). Then, we have Gloria, whose story is analogous to Ellen’s: she left her kids to take care of somebody else’s child. She gives her love and devotion to Jackie while her two boys go through a hard time coping with Gloria’s absence.

Finally, Mammoth focuses on money. Moodysson proves that money doesn’t buy happiness. In Gloria’s case, money equals financial stability. Yet, cause of that she’s away from her family and her country. In the Vidales’ case, money equals material things like a humungous fridge stuffed with food that could feed half the kids in the Philippines. Yet, cause of that Leo and Ellen spend most of their time working, apart from each other. They all want the same thing: being together with their families. For this reason, the fleeting moments together seem so precious.

Moodysson knows how to direct his actors into an emotional and genuine performance. They not only work with the story of their characters, but also with complicated emotions their characters experience. Although the movie is far from cheerful, it manages to end on a positive note. Intelligent, deep, and moving! Don’t miss it!

Long days, pleasant nights,

Veronica Bazydlo

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