Directed by John Patrick Lowrie, ‘Night, Mother’ adapts Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play into feature length form. A story about a daughter and a mother who have a meaningful conversation before the daughter decides to end her life, the film takes a look at the rise of suicide around the world.
Taking such a sensitive subject matter and transforming into a moving hour long conversation is no easy task but Lowrie manages to accomplish this flawlessly. The actors are another aspect of the production who deserve special acclaim. They realize the depth of the source material and both Sheila Houlahan and Ellen McLain, who play the daughter and mother respectively, give it their all. The result is a deeply emotional journey in which the old and tired mother does everything in her power to change her daughter’s decision about taking her own life but is ultimately unable to do so despite her best efforts and intentions.
The final moments of the film are especially tense. As the daughter says her final goodbye and goes into another room to take her own life, the tension on screen is palpable. The frantic calls of the mother to her child aside, the audience finds itself drawn into the moment as those unfamiliar with the source material wait and see if the director would actually go ahead with killing off the character. It is here that the writer, Ellen McLain, should be celebrated for her flawless work on the film. Although limited by the Zoom call format of the entire story, McLain nevertheless manages to make the whole exchange between mother and daughter hit all the right notes with enough disagreements, regret and hope that one cannot help but be overwhelmed with grief by the end. The moment of the ending scene is brilliantly staged and speaks volumes about the creative prowess of the makers in translating the trauma and emotion from the pages of the play to screen flawlessly.