The Toronto International Film Festival is currently underway, with a number of highly anticipated movies getting their world premieres. Quite a few filmmakers are making their directorial debut this year, like actress Anna Kendrick’s Woman of the Hour. Another director who is debuting their first feature length movie is Niclas Larsson, who wrote and directed the new dramedy Mother, Couch. The movie stars Ewan McGregor, who gives an excellent performance, but WTF did I just watch?
Mother, Couch had its world premiere today at TIFF, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance for that very first showing. In addition to starring as the lead role David, Ewan McGregor is also an executive producer on the project. Unfortunately the ongoing strikes stopped the cast from attending the premiere event, although Larsson was there to kick the movie off. I just wish I understood more about what I watched throughout its 96-minute runtime.
The movie is based off the novel Mamma i soffa, and centers around three siblings (McGregor, Rhys Ifans, Lara Flynn Boyle) who share the same mother, but have different fathers. When their mother (Exorcist icon Ellen Burstyn) sits on a couch at a furniture store and refuses to move or leave, the three estranged siblings try to get together to handle the situation, which soon devolves into surreal chaos.
While Mother, Couch starts off as a quirky movie set in reality, that’s far from where it ends up throughout its runtime. Around halfway through, the movie leans heavily on the bizarre, and I found it a pretty confusing moviegoing experience to try and follow. The furniture store the family stays in begins changing and transforming, with time seemingly moving in the process. It’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t, although things go into full chaos in the third act.
Despite my confusion, I was truly taken by Ewan McGregor’s work as David. He played comedic beats to pitch perfection, and he served as an envoy for the audience to get caught up in Niclas Larsson’s wild story. And in the movie’s more serious moments he truly shines, achieving an emotionality I haven’t seen since the finale of Moulin Rouge.
The bizarre and confusing nature of Mother, Couch actually reminded me of another surreal movie with a similar title: Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!. I felt similarly lost during my first viewing of that Jennifer Lawrence-led movie, which was an allegory about mother nature. Like that movie there’s a deeper message to McGregor's new movie, one I won’t spoil here. After all, the movie seems purposefully confusing, eventually offering some clarity in its final scenes. Although I personally didn’t find it enough of a payoff after the previous 90 minutes or so.
Aside from McGregor’s performance, there are some visually striking moments, and it’s clear that Niclas Larsson had a very specific vision for the movie. Ellen Burstyn also offers a great performance as Mother, prior to her upcoming return to horror with The Exorcist: Believer (see the trailer here). Another standout is White Lotus’ F. Murray Abraham, who is a scene stealer during his appearances.
It’s currently unclear when Mother, Couch will get its wide theatrical release. In the meantime, check out the 2023 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience.