Motherhood is an emotional battlefield to navigate, but maternal grief is certainly trickier. This kind of tragedy is what Angel of Mine examines. Firmly within the thriller genre (acting like the movie equivalent of a page-turner), it dives deep into the hysterical and crazed, yet overwhelmingly devoted emotions of a woman in such a fraught state.
Grieving mother Lizzie (Noomi Rapace) has a fascination with a seven year old girl, who’s the younger sister of her son’s friend. There’s not much indication of where this fascination comes from, though it may have something to do with the accidental death of her baby daughter. As what would happen to anyone, Lizzie is clearly still bereaved, even seven years later, and seems to observe the young girl as a surrogate version of her daughter, maybe even on a spiritual level.
She contrives a number of ways of getting closer to her, becoming friendly with the girl’s mother Claire (Yvonne Strahovski) and pretending to have an interest in buying their on-the-market house, as the family is moving to a new city soon. But Lizzie starts getting disturbingly closer to the impressionable young girl as she makes Claire become more and more alarmed.
This is a drip-fed thriller that takes wicked delight in teasing and withholding the troubled history of this woman, her fractured family, and how she now processes her disturbed ideas. The story eases its way out at a slow and controlled pace, allowing us to view moments from a distanced perspective – we may not have the full story, but we sure as hell feel great concern over this situation. The overly clean and clinical settings of these upper-class suburban homes, as well as Lizzie’s perfume store workplace, add to the film’s delicate glass-like sheen that feels delicately brittle, as if the slightest rupture could shatter it.
At the centre of this intensely emotional thriller is a finger on the motherly pulse, most of which comes from Noomi Rapace’s extraordinarily committed performance. She rarely fits in comfortably with what’s expected, but shows a wide range of heightened emotions and reactions to her circumstances.
This is an exploration of motherhood that has depth and ingenuity, but also explodes off the screen in how it explores the intensely emotional facets of motherhood and how it can lead to a seemingly deranged sensibility. These human complexities are situated within a fairly simple plot, but Angel of Mine displays a consistent and evolving view of how a devoted mother doesn’t believe she is wrong when she is set on her maternal instincts that are so deeply primal, they verge on the spiritual.