Mothers’ Instinct  (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Benoît Delhomme, US, 2024, 94 mins,

Cast:  Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

Review by Carol Allen

This is a well plotted melodrama set in the early 60s with two strong female leading  characters. 

Next door neighbours Alice (Jessica Chastain) and Celine (Anne Hathaway) are close friends, as are their respective young sons Theo (Eamon O’Connell and Max (Baylen D. Bielitz).  But when Max is killed by falling from his family’s upstairs balcony, Alice, who witnessed the accident, blames herself for not being able to save him – and so, it emerges, does Celine.  And though the two women appear to repair their friendship for a short while, Alice slowly begins to have dark doubts about what her former friend appears to be up to.  Is Alice being paranoid or does Celine really have some dark plot going?  And if so, what is it?

This would once have been a perfect vehicle for Bette Davies and Joan Crawford – though I’m not sure which way round I would have cast them.   Except it has the added benefit of high class, modern film technology.  The period feel and detail is spot on.  Hathaway has a bit of a Jackie Kennedy look in the character’s fashion choices and both women look and behave like dutiful wives from television’s Mad Men.  Same period, same era of stay at home and look lovely for hubby Stepford Wives – though Alice does express a bit of rebelliousness here, in that she hankers a bit after her pre marriage job. 

What woman nowadays however would dress and make up for breakfast at home or wear stiletto heels all day long?  Their look is one of Barbie pink perfection.  Not a lacquered hair out of place. 

Having said all that though, the film has a well thought out plot that keeps you guessing and strong performances from the two women, well up to Davies and Crawford standard.

There’s not that much for Anders Danielsen Lie and Josh Charles to do as their hubbies.  Just go off to the office in the morning, pay for the catalogue perfect homes and all they ask is for “wives to always be lovers”, keep the home as clean and tidy as a show house and shut up about wanting to go back to work.

It’s a ripe old melodrama, that’s for sure, but very entertaining with it.