Combustible Celluloid Review - Mother, Couch (2024), Niclas Larsson, based on a novel by Jerker Virdborg, Niclas Larsson, Ewan McGregor, Rhys Ifans, Taylor Russell, Ellen Burstyn, Lara Flynn Boyle, F. Murray Abraham, Lake Bell
Combustible Celluloid
With: Ewan McGregor, Rhys Ifans, Taylor Russell, Ellen Burstyn, Lara Flynn Boyle, F. Murray Abraham, Lake Bell
Written by: Niclas Larsson, based on a novel by Jerker Virdborg
Directed by: Niclas Larsson
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 96
Date: 07/05/2024

Mother, Couch (2024)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Sofa Dread

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Starting as an absurd comedy and moving into a surreal nightmare, Niclas Larsson's unpleasant Mother, Couch is about characters that talk a lot and listen very little, leading to a confusing and frustrating experience.

David (Ewan McGregor) rushes to Oakbed's Furniture store, where he finds his mother (Ellen Burstyn) sitting on a couch and refusing to leave. His older brother Gruffudd (Rhys Ifans) and sister Linda (Lara Flynn Boyle) arrive, but no one seems to be able to do anything.

Helpful clerk Bella (Taylor Russell) offers to let David spend the night in the store, since they've got everything they need already there. David talks with Bella about how dysfunctional his family is, and hears some unpleasant truths from his mother. The next day things turn even stranger and more nightmarish for David as he tries to get his mother and himself out of there.

It's possible to make an entertaining, squirm-inducing comedy about every conceivable thing going wrong for a character in the most horrific way possible (Martin Scorsese's After Hours for one), but Mother, Couch is not that kind of movie.

Given that it's based on a 2020 Swedish novel, perhaps something got lost in translation. The David character seems somewhat frantic about his mother's weird conundrum, but when he speaks to his wife (Lake Bell) about it, he sounds as if absolutely nothing is going on. Characters seem to bond in one scene, and then are at each other's throats the next, with no rhyme or reason. The family history, as it's explained to us, makes very little sense as well.

Swedish-born writer/director Niclas Larsson creates an affecting, unsettling atmosphere here, with an even more unsettling sound design. He also gets fine performances from his great cast; F. Murray Abraham gets to push the envelope playing the owners of the furniture store, a set of squabbling twins. But it's ultimately unclear what's really going on.

Mother, Couch seems to celebrate family in some scenes, and points an accusing finger at it in other scenes, and we're left without even so much as an indentation.

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