Octavia Spencer, renown actor who is famous for her previous work, including The Help, tells the story of the titular character, while also giving us, another noteworthy performance.
Ma, is essentially about a scorned woman seeking revenge from her former high school mates, projecting this dormant hatred onto their off spring. However, the audience is not entirely aware of this initially, although the trailer does quite well in conveying this message.
The film directed by Tate Taylor, has worked with Spencer before the film, and so it seems the working pair are here to prove another point to the spectators. Having seen their previous works, political and social critiques are usually at the forefront of discussion and while this film appears to be just another teen horror flick – there is more to talk about than meets the eye.
So, let us discuss.
Sue Ann (Ma), is a seemingly innocent recluse who meets a party of teens requesting her help to purchase booze on their behalf, since they are all underage. Maggie Thomspon ( Diana Silvers ). A desperate high school student ready to appease her new friends in a beat up truck owned by one of her crush’s parents (Luke Evans), Maggie meets Sue Ann outside of a local liquor store in a bid to have an adult buy the kids alcohol. Who hasn’t been there, right? Sue Ann, armored in scrubs who works for the local vet clinic, willingly agrees to do the kids a favour in exchange the kids “get home safe”, because any adult would want that for a group of unruly teenagers.
However, the plot tales a slight turn as Sue Ann begins to navigate through the group’s social media and exploring their connections to her own past. Her facial expressions and demeanour shine a light on her motives increasingly throughout the film. We see her primarily as this motherly, concerned protagonist attempting to provide a safe haven for the kids. But eventually, as the trailer portrays, a slightly turbulent turn of events. Some members of the group, including Maggie delve through Sue Ann’s ulterior motives , and takes the audience on a ride with them as they discover how disturbed Sue Ann really is. The creepy moments with Ma, and her desperation begin to surface profoundly, her past with it, and we cling and we cringe as she begs indirectly for some semblance of recognition.
I think the director and writers, do a great job of having the audience sympathize with Spencer’s character to some extent and allowing her humanity to shine through as well as her demonic aspect and what led up to it. The character arcs permit audiences to feel and extend their sympathies which is quite uncommon for a horror/thriller flick.
The film, is not at its best in terms of horror, but it does provide some insight into the easily accessible social media platforms and seemingly eager youths trusting strangers. MA exemplifies many of these issues as well as stereotypical relationships among themselves. For me, the biggest horror aspect was how quickly we can become connected, to some of the most psychotic individuals out there, right there in our group of friends, on Facebook.
Universal Pictures releases Ma in theatres on Friday, May 31, 2019
Review by Alessia Youkhanna