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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2023 New Directors

Review: Mother, Couch!


- Sweden’s Niclas Larsson makes his feature debut with a film that, while far from being perfect, offers a frenetic emotional journey and gives us a glimpse of an auteur with a bright future

Review: Mother, Couch!
Ewan McGregor, Rhys Ifans and Lara Flynn Boyle in Mother, Couch!

The title of the directorial debut by Niclas Larsson can leave no room for doubt. In Mother, Couch! [+see also:
interview: Niclas Larsson
film profile
, which has been presented in the New Directors section of the 71st San Sebastián Film Festival, everything revolves around a mother and a sofa. Everything – and especially the life of David (Ewan McGregor), a man who, one ordinary day, accompanies his mother to an old furniture store. There, the woman (played by the legendary Ellen Burstyn) finds a sofa with a plastic dust cover on, which she removes to sit down on the couch, never to get up again.

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David is joined by his brother Gruffudd (Rhys Ifans), who seems much less worried than him about the disconcerting situation facing them. The woman’s decision not to get off the sofa is not negotiable, and that’s when Linda (Lara Flynn Boyle) enters the scene. She is the third sibling and the one who seems the least troubled by the events unfolding: she insists on a swift resolution by ringing the emergency services. As audience members, we witness the things that the film portrays while remaining just as confused as the main character, and taking a little longer than we might have liked to take a genuine interest in what is happening. However, through some shrewd use of music, the frenetic way Larssen’s camera moves around and, most importantly, thanks to the impressive performance by Ewan McGregor, who gives it his all, we end up succumbing to its charms and agreeing to play the game.

Outside the furniture shop that the woman has decided not to come out of, life goes on. David’s family requests his presence, and this gives rise to one of the most angst-ridden scenes in the movie. The man takes his daughter to the beach and, while busy talking on the phone to straighten out the family situation, loses sight of the girl. In the space of just a few minutes, Larssen manages to convey to what extent David’s distress leads him to lose his cool, leaving him on the verge of a breakdown. Once he finds his daughter again, the protagonist returns to the place where his mother is still holed up. The space seems to have a life of its own, and it transforms as we gradually come to know more details about the bond between David and his mum – the place increasingly seems like the main characters’ home.

Through dialectical duels between the two characters, in which McGregor and Burstyn showcase their humungous talent and boast some explosive chemistry, we see that the mother-son relationship is far from ideal. The woman tells her son – the only one who seems interested in trying to understand her – that she never wanted him to be born, as well as making other brutal statements that are seldom heard coming out of a mother’s mouth in a film. Because of the harshness with which it touches on thorny topics, availing itself of surrealism and fantasy, the journey embarked upon by Mother, Couch! is one that is worthwhile, despite some minor hiccups, such as a certain drop in the pace from time to time and the lack of depth we can sense in the supporting characters.

Mother, Couch! is a production by Fat City (USA) together with Denmark’s Snowglobe and Sweden’s Film i Väst. Charades is in charge of its international sales.

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(Translated from Spanish)

Photogallery 26/09/2023: San Sebastián 2023 - Mother, Couch!

10 pictures available. Swipe left or right to see them all.

© 2023 Dario Caruso for Cineuropa -, Dario Caruso

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