29 December 2010 | tigerfish50
Dark light at the end of the tunnel.
Like Innaritu's "Babel", Lukas Moodysson's "Mammoth" focuses on groups of people who share connections with each other, as well as the dilemma of family members parted from their loved ones by the need to earn a living in the global economy. At the film's opening Leo is some kind of computer game whiz, living the American dream with his wife Ellen and a delightful 7 Y-O daughter in a vast apartment high above the streets of Manhattan. Their child's nanny Gloria resides with them, but this conscientious immigrant worker's warm exterior conceals a growing agitation at being separated from two young sons, who live with their grandmother back in the Philippines.
The idealistic, unworldly Leo must travel to Thailand for the signing of a business deal. As he sets off on his trip Ellen works a punishing schedule as an E.R. surgeon, fretting that she's losing her daughter's affection to Gloria, and compensating for this anxiety by getting emotionally entangled in the case of a child who has been brutally stabbed by his mother. After arriving at his Bangkok luxury hotel, Leo pines for his family, exchanging disjointed voice-mails with Ellen while he waits for the lawyers to conclude their negotiations. Eventually he escapes the city for a remote beach resort, where he befriends a young prostitute after rejecting her professional advances.
The film takes its time building up the pressure, but it's no great hardship watching such a talented cast heating up the stew until the pot boils over. After the storm breaks, Moodysson seems determined to avoid sentimentality, and tosses his characters into a whirlpool of heavyweight turmoil. When calm is restored, it's clear the struggles of the poor will always be remorseless and life-threatening - but the film's closing moments suggest that Leo and Ellen might also suffer some devastating future upheavals. In contrast to "Babel's" more hopeful conclusion, "Mammoth's" audience might wonder if it deserved such a tough lesson that momentary lapses can lead to bitter consequences, and bad things happen to decent people.