Madre [subtitled]

Madre

In the 19 minute film Madre from Spain, a woman and her mother receive a call from the woman’s young son, who is traveling with his father some distance away along the coast in the Basque region near the border between Spain and France. I inferred that she and the father are divorced, though I don’t think that’s specified. The child sounds about 5 or 6 on the phone. A description I read of the film gives his age as 7. I don’t think that either is specified in the film, but it’s very close to what I guessed, so I’m OK with 7. In any case, it’s a child who can use a phone but is fairly limited in his ability to provide information, respond directly to questions, etc.

They’re talking happily with the child when he drops in the rather chilling “Oh by the way” remark that he’s all by himself on a beach he knows not where.

As the startled women pump him for information, he sounds increasingly frightened. He’s not even sure if he’s in Spain or France, he can’t estimate how long he has been apart from his father, and he is unable to give any kind of coherent, useful description of the beach. (There’s a lot of sand, is about as much as they can get from him.)

It’s an ominous situation, to put it mildly. What is the father up to? We really know nothing about him beyond—and even this is just an inference—that he and the mother are divorced. We don’t know if they’re divorced because he’s abusive, violent, crazy, a criminal, etc. Was there any pre-existing reason to think the boy might not be safe with him? Does he mean to abandon his own son in the middle of nowhere for some reason? If it’s not something nefarious like that, it certainly seems to be at least highly irresponsible and negligent to leave a child of that age alone for any significant period of time.

I immediately assumed that the father was pulling something or other, but I suppose it doesn’t even have to be that. Might there be some other explanation for what’s going on at the other end of the call? Is it something equally dire as malfeasance by the father, or could there be a totally innocent explanation?

Madre is an unusually intense film. The acting and the writing keep you on the edge of your seat once the child informs them that he’s alone somewhere, and you feel his terror and their terror. Strong recommendation.

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