filmireland.net review of Mammoth

Lukas Moodysson’s Mammoth (2009) 2hrs 2mins

Leo and Ellen are husband and wife living in a New York City apartment, with their seven-year-old daughter Jackie and their live-in maid and carer Gloria. Leo is a businessman for a gaming social network site. Ellen is a surgeon who works long hours. At the beginning of film Leo leaves his family, to go on a business trip to Thailand. The Mammoth of the title is the design of a pen, given to Leo by his associate on their flight.

Gloria is from the Philippines, where she has two young sons who miss their mother. Her son Salvador calls her regularly on her cell phone, telling her that he and his brother want her to come home. Ellen has a treadmill on the roof of the apartment building. In a later scene she uses it in the rain. You can feel her isolation and longing for something less stressful.

As Leo and Ellen are out of the house working, Gloria takes care of Jackie and introduces her to Filipino culture, they discuss Jackie’s favourite subject astronomy. The film amongst other things is about class. Gloria buys a basketball for your son’s birthday. Ellen is jealous and hurt that Jackie wants to spend more time with Gloria when she finally returns home from work. Ellen buys an expensive telescope for Jackie to get her attention. While on his business trip Leo becomes involves with a prostitute named Cookie, whom he respects and gives her money to go home and get some sleep.

Gael García Bernal, one of the stars of Mexican cinema, plays Leo with an air of mystery and subtlety in what he really wants from life. Michelle Williams, of Brokeback Mountain fame is affective as Ellen. There is a shot of Williams’ face where you almost see the pours of her skin. Marife Necesito is perfectly nuanced as Gloria. Sophie Nyweide is charming and well cast as Jackie. Jan Nicdao and Martin Delos Santos deliver fine performances as Gloria’s two sons Manuel and Salvador. Run Srinikornchot gives a good performance as Cookie.

Mammoth is written and directed by Lukas Moodysson from Sweden whose credits include Together and Lilya 4-ever. Mammoth is one of those films that is two hours but feels like two and half hours. There are parts that go on too long.

Mammoth is about parents, their children and the future that they fear for them. Gloria is working in America to support her two sons. Ellen has a stab victim who is young boy, she can’t stop thinking about if it was Jackie. Some Swedish critics have accused the film of misogyny. Make up your own mind.

Someone once told me “Great character films tell us things we already know but surprise us none the less”. Mammoth does not quite have that quality to really surprise us. However, the reality that a mammoth pen and two expensive watches will get you up to five grand in America and only $40 in Thailand is heartbreaking.

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