Arrow in the Head reviews the psychological thriller Mother, May I?, starring Kyle Gallner and Holland Roden
PLOT: When Emmett and his fiancée Anya spend some time in the house that belonged to Emmett’s deceased mother, Anya starts acting just like the dead woman.
REVIEW: Writer/director Laurence Vannicelli’s film Mother, May I? (watch it HERE) has been described as a psychological thriller, but any genre fans who turn to this one hoping for heart-pumping scenes of thrills and scares won’t get what they’re looking for. This isn’t really the sort of movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat. While there are certainly moments where characters display strange behavior that might creep you out, for the most part Mother, May I? might be better described as a “psycho-drama”… and playing out all this drama allows lead actors Holland Roden and Kyle Gallner to turn the film into a great showcase of their skills.
When I heard about this movie, Gallner was the main drawing point for me. He has been racking up genre credits for a couple decades now, including Red State, The Walking Dead, Scream (2022), and Smile, and I have been a fan since the early days of The Haunting in Connecticut and Jennifer’s Body. You can always count on Gallner to turn in a solid performance, even when the movie he’s in doesn’t work very well (the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, for example). Roden, I wasn’t familiar with. Although she has over thirty screen credits to her name, I haven’t seen any of them except an episode of Lost and an episode of Memphis Beat. I missed all 100 episodes of the Teen Wolf series she was in (and the recent movie). So this was my first time seeing her play a major role – and I was very impressed with what Roden does in this movie.
Gallner plays Emmett, a young man who tends to avoid his emotions, bottling them up and burying them deep inside. His mother abandoned him as a child and he has hasn’t heard from her since – but when she passes away, he learns that she has left her home to him. It’s the place he lived in as a kid, but he has repressed the memories of that time. He decides to sell the property, but first he and his fiancée Anya (Roden) go there to check it out, planning to stay there long enough to fix it up and get it on the market. The daughter of a psychoanalyst, Anya feels it is very important that Emmett explore his feelings about his mother while they’re in her home. She even tries to communicate with Emmett through something she calls “share reversal”, where they roleplay as each other to say things they think the other person isn’t properly expressing.
Then the roleplay goes too far. After taking psilocybin mushrooms, Anya starts talking, dressing, and acting like Emmett’s mother, even putting on her clothes and makeup and taking on her habit of smoking cigarettes. Her behavior can’t just be blamed on the ‘shrooms, because this goes on for days… and that makes up the bulk of Mother, May I?’s 99 minute running time. Both freaked out and angered by Anya’s behavior, Emmett has to try to figure out if Anya is just showing a disturbing dedication to her roleplaying or if she has somehow become possessed by his mother’s spirit. Whatever the case, it does cause him to confront the feelings he has about both his mother and Anya.
Gallner does a great job of playing the emotions of his troubled, baffled character, while Roden is given the opportunity to play two completely different characters. Anya and the “Emmett’s Mother” personality are both odd, but Roden is able to play them as two separate people. It’s clear when she’s in Anya mode and when she’s in Mother mode, and not just because one wears makeup and one doesn’t. They speak differently, they carry themselves differently. After watching this movie, I’m left eager to watch more of Roden’s work so I can see more of her range.
Mother, May I? will be too slow and strange for some viewers, and it will be disappointing for anyone who’s looking to watch an outright horror film, but it is an intriguing drama that’s carried on the shoulders of the terrific performances delivered by Gallner and Roden. It’s worth watching just to see the two of them at work.
Dark Sky Films is giving Mother, May I? a VOD and limited theatrical release on July 21st.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/mother-may-i-review/