out of Five
Running time: 125
This is an impressively directed, superbly acted and emotionally engaging drama, though the script is occasionally a little heavy-handed and the whole thing is nearly scuppered by a jaw-droppingly crass final line.
What's it all about?
Directed by Lukas Moodysson, Mammoth stars Gael Garcia Bernal as Leo Vidales, a wealthy gaming website creator who lives in a luxurious New York apartment and is happily married to surgeon Ellen (Michelle Williams). Since both parents work, their seven-year-old daughter Jackie (Sophie Nyweide) spends most of her time with their Filipina nanny Gloria (Marife Necesito), who in turn sends all her money home in order to provide for the future of her two young sons Salvador and Manuel (Jan David G Nicdao, Martin Delos Santos).
When Leo takes a business trip to Thailand, he finds he has to wait around while his partner (Thomas McCarthy) finalises a deal, so he strikes up a relationship with Cookie (Run Srinikornchot), a young prostitute he meets in a bar. Meanwhile, Ellen struggles with an upsetting case at work and worries that Jackie is becoming too close to Gloria; and over in the Philippines, Salvador's decision to try and make some money so that his mother can come home has devastating consequences.
The performances are excellent: Bernal is superb as the happy-go-lucky millionaire (it's clear that he's essentially a gamer at heart and that his newfound wealth is both sudden and unexpected) whose admirable propensity to be nice to everyone ends up getting him in trouble. Williams is equally good as a woman trying to keep a lid on her emotions, both personally and professionally, while there's heartbreaking work from young Nicdao as Salvador.
The film is beautifully shot, with Marcel Zyskind's striking cinematography making strong use of the various locations. In addition, Moodysson maintains a strong sense of emotional tension (in that you're primed to expect tragedy throughout) and orchestrates some powerfully moving sequences.
That said, the film is weakened by a script that's a little too heavy-handed (e.g. Gloria buying a basketball for her son with Made in the Philippines written on it; the fate of Leo's made-with-real-mammoth pen) and a stupendously crass final line that provokes unintentional laughter almost scuppers the entire movie.
Despite its flaws, Mammoth is an impressively directed, emotionally engaging drama with terrific performances from its two leads. Worth seeing.