By Adrianne Calgie
Aah, mums. Where would we be without them? It doesn’t matter what age we are, they’re still the one person we turn to for advice or whose opinion we take the most seriously. Sometimes they can be stifling, or critical of our questionable fashion choices, and at least once in our lives, we’ll wish they didn’t have an answer to everything. They’ve been given a bit of a mixed representation on screen- try finding one in a Disney movie that isn’t either absent or killed- but in celebration of Mother’s Day this Sunday (30th March), I rifled through some of the most iconic movie matriarchs. Some are good, some are bad, but whatever the type I’ve even included a handy present guide. No thanks necessary.
Laura (The Orphanage (El Orfanato)
Some mothers will go to any lengths to protect their children, and Laura (Belen Rueda) is no exception. Her adopted son, Simón, is HIV positive, and is completely unaware of both of these facts. She keeps him so tied to her apron strings that when he goes missing, it completely devastates her, especially when she suspects that there’s supernatural foul play involved. She’s also an orphan herself and channels this into helping other children: the titular orphanage is her former home, which she renovates into a facility for children with special needs. Not only is she a loving mum, but she looks after other children too. That’s what makes this film’s resolution such a harsh, yet oddly heart-warming one.
What to get her for Mother’s Day: one of those reins that parents pretend aren’t just leashes for children.
Morticia Addams (The Addams Family/ The Addams Family Values)
When I was younger, Morticia Addams was my ideal movie mum. Mostly because I wanted to be Wednesday Addams. Morticia (Anjelica Huston) and hubby Gomez (Raul Julia) have the perfect marriage: they’re equally as quirky and kooky as each other, and total soulmates. In turn, they raise their children to accept weird as the norm. Morticia is warm hearted, open minded and accepting of everyone: even when family members bring home unsuitable (and, eventually, homicidal) partners. Despite the fact that she packs her kids off to summer camp in an attempt to socialise them, she still values homicide as a preferable obsession for a pre-teen than mooning over boys.
What to get her for Mother’s Day: black roses, preferably artfully arranged dead ones.
Mrs Jones/ The ‘Other Mother’ (Coraline)
Everyone, as a child, has had that moment when they wished they had someone else’s parents. Chores suck. Homework is boring. They’re always doing adult stuff like work and shouting. Wouldn’t it be great if you could swap them, just for a while? Well, as Coraline Jones found out… no. No it’s not. After moving to a new home, she finds a secret doorway which allows her to flit between the dreary real world and the dreamy, fantastical other world, where mothers are attentive, cats can talk and gardens magically blossom into life. However, as she quickly discovers, there’s a sinister side to all this whimsy. This film is exactly the kind of dark fantasy I wish I could’ve seen as a child. Even as an adult, I find the ‘Other Mother’, with her button eyes and exaggerated features, entirely scary. Not only that but she steals children’ssouls and sews buttons onto their eyes. I can’t think of anything that would make me behave more than that.
What to get her for Mother’s Day: plastic knitting needles and wool, so she can sew buttons onto cardigans instead of, umm, children’s eyes.
Erica Sawyer (Black Swan)
Whatever childhood folly you undertake, mums usually accept it with a wry smile. Whether it’s drums, ghost hunting or dinosaurs (admittedly all mine), they always encourage it. They know full well that by next week you’ll be scaling the back of your couch trying to be a Gladiator (also mine). The worst and most extreme version of this is the pushy stage mum: the one who’s forced to give up on her own dreams and now lives them out through her children. Barbara Hershey’s Erica is a startling, dichotomic and unpredictable case and point. She’s even more unstable than daughter Nina (Natalie Portman), pushing her to painful extremes under the guise of motherly guidance. This is not the kind of mum who’d take it well if you felt like slacking off. Also, despite her pushing you into a gruelling ballet training regime, don’t turn down her home baking. She won’t take it well.
What to get her for Mother’s Day: a portrait of her in your tutu holding up one of your dancing trophies. She needs this.
Sarah (The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things)
Not all mothers have their children’s best interests at heart. Sarah, the truck-stop matriarch of this grotesque, grungey, cult affair, certainly didn’t. Directed by, and starring, Italian wunderkind Asia Argento, this unflinching flick is based on the book of the same name. Argento’s Sarah is an abusive, drug addled teenage mother who jumps between boyfriends, husbands and motels, casually picking up and abandoning her son along the way. This is not under any circumstances an easy watch, but it’ll haunt you. Originally believed to be the true account of author JT Leroy, this was eventually rumbled as a hoax- and after watching this, you’ll be glad it is. It’s one of these films where you wonder what the impulse might have been to adapt it. Argento admitted in a 2003 interview that she was compelled to do so “because I know how hard it is, especially in America, to be a single mother”. Perhaps she had different intentions when she started out. Having read the book, her redemptive qualities are seen through the eyes of her son, but without this first person narrative approach, it’s hard to feel any kind of sympathy whatsoever.
What to get her for Mother’s Day: maybe a nice Body Shop gift set. And maybe limit mother/son time to every other weekend.
Other notable near-inclusions: Pam Voorhees (Friday the 13th), Margaret White (Carrie), (The Fighter), Beverly Sutphin (Serial Mom), Rosemary Woodhouse (Rosemary’s Baby), Joan Crawford (Mommie Dearest), Ma Jarrett (White Heat).