Starring: Holland Roden, Kyle Gallner and Chris Mulkey
Directed by: Laurence Vannicelli
Running Time: 99 minutes
Dark Sky Films
Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
When death occurs, it leaves a scar. Not only the loss of a loved one, but the words that will never be said. The emotions that will now never be conveyed or felt. The questions that will now go on unanswered. I won’t bother looking up who said it because it’s a universal truth, but the only sure thing in life is death. In “Mother, May I?,” death is really the only sure thing.
Emmett’s (Kyle Gallner) mother, who abandoned him, has recently passed. Understandably, he wants to go to her house, get in, get out and move on with his life. Emmett’s fiance, Anya (Holland Roden), is in tow as emotional support, but that support seems a little flawed. At least from my vantage point. In an effort to help alleviate the pain of the experience of being in her house, Anya recommends they take psilocybin mushrooms. I have yet to try this method, but seeing people on mushrooms without having to deal with trauma tells me…I won’t. While tripping, Emmett and Anya decide to play a little roleplaying game where Anya is Emmett’s mother. It’s weird, oddly sexual and freaks Emmett out a bit. However, the troubles continue when he wakes up the next day and Anya is still pretending to be his mother. Or is she?
“Mother, May I?” is the definition of unsettling. As the film progresses, we begin to wonder if something supernatural is happening. Anya, who professes to not know how to swim, begins to swim whilst continuing to “be” Emmett’s mother. She also begins to exhibit ticks that Emmett knows his mother had, but has never told Anya. The emptiness of the house they’re in, compounded by the callousness of Emmett’s mom in flashbacks, allows the film to creep slowly under your skin, wriggling around when tensions come to a boil. When things explode between the two, it’s like a therapy session in hell.
Since most of “Mother, May I?” is filled with our two leads, so much of the film’s emotional weight is carried by Gallner and Roden who do spot-on jobs when their characters are hurt, vengeful, remorseful and horny. Rarely does the film relent, seemingly putting its foot down on the emotional accelerator. At some points you have to wonder who’s attempting to inflict emotional damage and who’s using brutal honesty to progress their own self-reflected feelings forward.
So what exactly is going on with Anya? Is she possessed or is she creating a cruel new form of psychotherapy? Or better yet, what’s going on with Emmett? Is he truly disturbed and upset or is he a unique byproduct of a broken mother-son relationship that would have Sigmund Freud licking his lips? Since the film leaves every question unanswered, the film in of itself is like death. As the credits roll, we’re left wondering what if and why.