To what lengths would you go to protect the ones you love? This question is a popular trope in action films because it brings drama, emotion, and some fantastic fighting sequences. Netflix’s newest action film, The Mother, brings this trope front and center, though with a spin that provides a fresh perspective on a tired trope.
With a story from Misha Green (Lovecraft Country and Underground) and directed by Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife, Mulan (2020)), this film stars Jennifer Lopez as the mother. Joining her in this film are Joseph Fiennes, Omari Hardwick, and Gael García Bernal. With action reminiscent of films from the 2000s, ala the Taken franchise, is The Mother worth your time? Let’s explore everything this film has to offer.
[Warning: Spoilers from The Mother on Netflix are below!]
Jennifer Lopez as a mother trying to protect her child
The Mother begins with an action scene that sets up what to expect throughout the entire movie. The mother, who goes the entire film without garnering a name drop, is found at a safe house with some FBI operatives. The house is relatively empty and Lopez’s character is being grilled by Special Agent William Cruise (Hardwick).
Cruise is looking for information from the military mother, who is involved in an arms deal between ex-marine Adrian Lovell (Fiennes) and Hector Álvarez (García Bernal). However, when she finds out the two are also involved in child trafficking, she turns on them, willing to give information to the FBI.
It doesn’t help that she’s pregnant, having been romantically involved with both parties of the arms deal. It’s while the mother is talking, Lovell attacks the safe house. In a situation that could’ve easily turned sour, she manages to stop Lovell and save the life of Agent Cruise. Shortly after she gives birth to a girl.
The mother is told that giving up the baby is what’s in the best interest of the child. Lovell’s body was never found, meaning the child is in danger. That is unless the child goes into witness protection. Knowing that the FBI is right, the mother agrees, but with a few conditions. She wants her daughter to live the most mundane life possible, she wants yearly updates and photos, and she wants to be the first one called if her daughter’s in danger.
Twelve years later – a daughter in danger
Time passes and life has been quiet for Lopez’s character. She’s secluded herself in a cabin in Alaska, living a life of hunting for food and barely scraping by. There’s little interaction for her, with the exception of friend Jons (Paul Raci) and yearly letters from Agent Cruise with updates about her daughter.
Except in year twelve, the letter is different. This time, Cruise summons her to Ohio. The existence of her daughter, Zoe (Lucy Paez), has been discovered by Lovell, meaning a target is painted and the clock is ticking.
From that point on, The Mother becomes a fast-paced thrill ride, as Lopez’s mother seeks to get her daughter back. It’s also when the movie becomes disjointed. Setting up the premise seemed rather straightforward, though part of what brought the mother to the FBI and who the father of Zoe is plays out over the course of the film instead of in the beginning.
Does the mother keep Zoe safe from the likes of Lovell? That’s something for you to discover over the course of the two-hour film. However, I can say that the journey is treacherous for these characters, as the action and tension ratchet up.
The pros and cons of Netflix’s The Mother
Two things stood out about The Mother, the action and Lopez’s performance. In the opening section, I compared the film to action films of the 2000s, and to me, that’s a compliment. Films such as Taken, The Matrix, and even Daredevil were from my adolescence that had action sequences that I remember fondly. I can’t think of a single film in the aforementioned films and many others from that time frame that seemed like the epitome of fantastic action and draw-dropping stunts.
The Mother felt in the same vein, with tons of action in a variety of ways. There are fight scenes that focus on hand-to-hand combat, gun fights, and car chases, just to name a few. The film cycles through all of them, depending on what the story calls for. Some of the action was fantastic, however, a few of the scenes left me feeling queasy. The opening scene specifically sticks out as one that isn’t for the faint of heart.
Lopez was a standout among the other stars, giving a nuanced performance that left you feeling like you’ve been gut-punched throughout. I think any parent would understand the pain she feels, having to make the best decision for her child, even if it hurts her in the process. This movie works, to whatever degree it does, because of Jennifer Lopez and the energy she brings to the film.
As for the story itself, it felt like it fell apart the longer the film went on. The motivations of the villains of The Mother felt weaker the more I watched and the film felt unsure of what it wanted to be with each scene. At times, after the initial setup, it felt like The Mother was an amalgamation of multiple ideas that didn’t necessarily go together.
There’s a period during the second half where I forgot why the villains were after the daughter and needed clarification. This seemed to be a direct result of the excess of stories and changing tones. The film could have been cut down by a good twenty minutes and the story would have improved that much more.
Overall, I enjoyed The Mother quite a bit, mostly from the action and the acting of our leading lady. The essence of the story was good, although I walked away wishing for more. If you have a spare two hours and want something with good action, you should definitely check out The Mother. However, if you’re hoping for a story to blow you away, this may not be the film for you.
My rating for this film:
★★★ / ♥♥♥♥
The Mother is currently streaming on Netflix. Will you be checking this film out? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of John Wick Chapter 4!