When it comes to editing movies (or shows), the unspoken rule is that a cut between two shots should be invisible to the audience. If the viewer notices the cut, then the illusion of being immersed in the world that the movie has created is apparently broken. And that’s mostly true because one of the greatest examples of frenetic editing is the shower scene in Psycho, where the cuts (the editing as well as the stabs) are so obvious, and yet you are not taken out of the movie. Lawrence of Arabia’s famous cut to sunrise is also incredibly noticeable, and yet it only takes you deeper into its epic story. Then there are my favorites, Sam Raimi and Edgar Wright, where overediting is the whole point. But when these same tools fall in the hands of people who don’t know what they are doing, then you get a movie like The Mother.
Usually, this is the point where I give a brief synopsis of the movie, but if I can be straight with you, I was way too distracted and nauseated by the editing to really notice what was going on in terms of the plot. So, I will try my best to piece together the atrocity that I waded through. The Mother (Jennifer Lopez’s character is credited as such) has worked for two wanted men named Adrian and Hector on behalf of the Feds. When she is brought to a safe house for questioning while she’s pregnant, the place is attacked by Adrian and his men. The Mother manages to stabilize an agent called Cruise and then apparently takes down Adrian, who stabs the Mother. Next, we see her at the hospital getting her baby delivered. A woman in a suit appears and tells The Mother that her daughter is going to be put under witness protection and she’ll never get to see her again. Before vanishing into thin air, the Mother asks Cruise to take care of her daughter. 12 years later, when Zoe (the Mother’s daughter) is kidnapped; the Mother has to return to her old ways to take down Hector and Adrian for good. Well, at least that’s what I think is happening in The Mother.
To be frank, the plot of action vehicles such as The Mother isn’t their greatest attraction; the action and the star value of the star (duh!) are the main attractions. When we are 20 minutes into the film, director Niki Caro, cinematographer Ben Seresin, and editor David Coulson prove that they aren’t interested in portraying Jennifer Lopez in a very positive light. The scene is supposed to be about the Mother trying her best to prevent her daughter from getting kidnapped by using her sniping skills. And every shot in that three-minute scene lasts on the screen for about 2–3 seconds. The camera follows multiple characters spread across a 100-meter radius, and yet there’s no sense of geography or where these characters are in relation to each other. Just when you start to figure out what’s going on, the movie throws a flurry of cuts, thereby confusing the hell out of you. By the way, when I say “confused,” I don’t mean that you won’t be able to understand what’s going on on the screen. You’ll just question why things are happening the way they are. The John Wick movies are right there to show us that action can be presented in a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing manner. However, I guess the makers of The Mother aren’t fans of that franchise.
When the film reached the 50th horribly edited scene, though, two conspiracy theories started to form in my brain. It could be a side effect of tolerating all those obnoxiously edited scenes, but hear me out. My first theory is that The Mother is a parody movie. Kill Bill, without a second thought, is one of the most iconic action movies that has a female lead. Atomic Blonde is up there with some of the best action movies of all time. But as you keep going down the list, you start to come across a barrage of awful and unwatchable female-centric action films like Lou, Gunpowder Milkshake, Jolt, Æon Flux, Ghost in the Shell (the live-action remake), Captain Marvel, Black Widow, and the infamous Catwoman. And what’s the one thing that’s common between all of these titles? That’s correct! Horribly editing. So, if you see The Mother as a tongue-in-cheek critique of films expressing their feminist themes through guns and punches, the viewing experience gets a little better. In case that doesn’t work for you, here’s my second theory: the movie is a victim of studio meddling, and the proof lies in Jennifer Lopez’s derrière. Hear me out. When the trailer for the film came out, hilariously enough, it featured an out-of-context shot of JLo’s posterior in a body-hugging dress. However, that shot is inexplicably absent from the final cut of the movie. We see Lopez in that dress, dancing with Joseph Fiennes. That specific shot is nowhere to be found, though. Therefore, it indicates that the film has undergone a lot of scrutiny on an executive level, thereby leading to the awful editing. Now, if these theories are false and everything that we see in the film is intentional, then the whole team involved in its making needs to go to film school to learn the basics.
When it comes to the performances in The Mother, it’s not exactly a mess. Jennifer Lopez is clearly giving it her all. She is trying to strike a balance between her character’s stoic nature, her humor, and her ability to take care of an adverse scenario. In the hands of a good filmmaker, she would’ve been the highlight of the film. But maybe due to Caro’s ineptitude, the awful writing by Misha Green, Andrea Berloff, and Peter Craig, or the lack of physical preparation required to pull off the role, Lopez’s efforts fall flat. You can clearly see the switches between Lopez and her stunt double. And when she’s trying to do all the action herself, she is hiding behind the most jarring cuts imaginable. Joseph Fiennes’ talents are wasted here. Gael García Bernal is hardly in this movie. I don’t know why he decided to even star in this film. Is he friends with Caro or Lopez, and he’s just doing them a favor? If that’s the case, his friends should’ve given him something substantial. Omari Hardwick is fine. Lucy Paez does a decent job of expressing Zoe’s frustration. However, in a movie that’s frustrating anyway, her character becomes annoying very soon. The amazing Edie Falco is in this movie too. So is the great Paul Raci. Well, what a shame.
In conclusion, I won’t recommend watching The Mother. There are better things to do in life, one of which includes watching good action films. Still, if you want to give it a try because it’s available on Netflix, feel free to do so and let us know the point where you started to feel dizzy due to the editing and horrific shot compositions.