REVIEW: “The Mother” (2023)

I’m up for seeing Jennifer Lopez go full-action heroine just as much as anyone. And that’s what we get in director Niki Caro’s new film “The Mother”. Written by the trio of Misha Green, Andrea Berloff, and Peter Craig, this made for streaming genre feature gives the one-time Fly Girl on “In Living Color” turned multifaceted superstar plenty of scenes to show off her physicality. At the same time it follows a very well-worn formula to a tee and the note-for-note predictability ultimately weighs the movie down.

For some it can be easy to forget that Jennifer Lopez is a really good actress. Her coverage is often skewed towards her celebrity status with the press routinely more interested in who she’s dating than the work she’s doing. But the accomplished singer and dancer has proven to have a terrific screen presence. And despite a few questionable film choices, Lopez has always been very comfortable taking on an interesting variety of roles.

Image Courtesy of Netflix

In “The Mother” she plays the titular character who we first meet early one morning at an FBI safehouse in Linton, Indiana. She’s an expecting mother who is never named being interrogated by Agent William Cruise (Omari Hardwick) about a weapons deal she set up between an arms broker Hector Álvarez (Gael García Bernal) and a terrorist leader Adrian Lovell (Joseph Fiennes). She’s looking to cut a deal; the FBI wants information; both Álvarez and Lovell want her dead.

Suddenly the safehouse is assaulted by Lovell who kills most of the agents and seriously wounds the pregnant mother. But using her ‘particular set of skills’ the mother manages to survive. She’s taken to a hospital where she gives birth to a healthy baby girl. Convinced by the FBI that her daughter will be an immediate and constant target, the mother agrees to sign over her parental rights and disappear. She has only three conditions: they put her daughter with a stable family, she gets yearly updates on her daughter’s wellbeing, and if there’s any trouble they will let her know.

Twelve years pass and we see the mother living off the grid in Tlingit Bay, Alaska. Meanwhile her daughter named Zoe (Lucy Paez) has enjoyed a normal childhood with a loving family. But this is an action-thriller so we know the peaceful times aren’t going to last. Cruise contacts the mother and informs her that some of Álvarez’s men were apprehended and one of them had a picture of Zoe. The mother springs into action, leaving her isolated life to protect the daughter she was forced to leave behind.

Image Courtesy of Netflix

Along the way it becomes evident that this mother isn’t someone to mess with. We learn she’s ex-military and served back-to-back tours in Afghanistan. There she was trained as an expert sniper with more than a few kills to her credit. But none of this is a surprise. I mean most of these movies are built around a protagonist who is ex-military, ex-CIA, ex-FBI, ex-assassin, etc. It’s a handy history to have in a movie like this. It’s also pretty conventional and something filmmakers have gone back to again and again.

Ultimately that’s what this film feels like – something we’ve seen again and again. Yet there’s something to be said about J-Lo’s commitment to her role. Despite the familiarity surrounding her character and the generic framework of her story, Lopez earns our empathy and our investment. She can’t quite make up for everything, but she makes it watchable and has the star wattage to get us through the movie’s shakier parts. “The Mother” premieres today exclusively on Netflix.


12 thoughts on “REVIEW: “The Mother” (2023)

  1. I think my mother might like this as we were going to see The Book Club 2 but we cancelled those plans as my sister has other ideas for Mother’s Day. Still, I think it might be fun if we keep our expectations low. Plus, I’m happy J-Lo is having this career renaissance.

  2. Scored right down the middle like I thought it would, but sounds good enough to watch with my wife and enjoy some popcorn. You are correct that Lopez is a great actress. Luckily I don’t usually even glance at who is dating who in Hollywood and only see their work product in movies, so I’m not usually influenced by their love lives, politics, etc. And her work product is terrific.

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