Review: Mammoth (3.5/5)

We find a privileged New York-based couple at the heart of this continent-hopping drama that takes us from US to Philippines to Thailand and then back. Leo (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a game designer who just landed a multi-million dollar deal. His wife, Ellen (Michelle Williams), is a dedicated ER surgeon who works in long shifts. Because of their demanding careers, they leave their daughter Jackie to be attended by her Filipina yaya Gloria (Marife Necesito). When Leo sets off to Thailand for a business trip, Ellen notices that her busy schedule is keeping her away from Jackie. She tries to spend more time with her but ends up struggling to compete with Gloria for her daughter’s attention.

Gloria, on the other hand, left her two boys in her hometown to work abroad. Through phone conversations with her eldest son, Gloria’s story unfurls. She is a single mother who plans to build a house for her children. Although she is not used to being away from her kids, she has to be strong in order to provide for them. Her sons miss her terribly and demand that she comes home soon. Gloria’s stoic demeanor slowly shatters and gives way to tears as she hears her son’s demands. As Leo, Ellen, and Gloria pursue what they think is best for their children, they soon realize that what they are pursuing can’t really fulfill their lives after all.

There’s a hefty amount of Filipino talents in Mammoth. We have Jan Nicdao as Salvador and Martin Delos Santos as Manuel, Gloria’s sons, as well as Maria del Carmen as the kids’ grandmother. But the film belongs to Marife Necesito who played the caring nanny and enduring mother convincingly. Mammoth is Marife’s biggest break. But she has already appeared in several productions including Lav Diaz’s Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino and Heremias Book Two: The Legend of Tagabulag Island. From the looks of it, Marife will undoubtedly land more roles in the future because she knows how to lose herself in the character. Marife’s portrayal of Gloria is so genuine – from diction to maternal instincts, she has captured it perfectly.

Swedish-born Lukas Moodysson (helmer of the arthouse film Show Me Love) is responsible for direction and screenplay. Lukas may be Scandinavian, but he has realistically captured the struggles and aspirations of Filipinos as if he is a Filipino himself. His exploration on third world virtues and sensibilities is sweeping and insightful. Philippines and New York City may be on the opposite ends of the world. However, the differences stop on the lifestyle of its residents and its geographical location. Parental love and values seem to be universal regardless of nationality and social class.

Mammoth is a humanist study about the dynamics of working parents who may be providing the needs of their children but are largely absent in their lives. It’s a subject matter that a lot of Filipinos can relate to, especially with the growing number of OFWs today. Parents often forget about their real priorities while chasing their dreams of a good life. I’m not saying that they are bad parents. Their intentions are good, but there are negative repercussions that must be addressed. At the end, the film teaches us an important lesson: appreciate what you have now before it’s gone, before it becomes extinct.

* published in PEP


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