A top-notch cast in fine form can’t save the befuddling Mother, Couch. Directed by Niclas Larsson who adapts Jerker Virdborg’s novel “Mamma I Soffa,” Ewan McGregor leads an ensemble that includes Rhys Ifans, Lara Flynn Boyle, F. Murray Abraham, Taylor Russell, Lake Bell, and Ellen Burstyn.
While visiting a furniture store, David (McGregor) and Gruffudd (Ifans) are faced with an unusual problem when their mother (Burstyn) firmly plants herself on a couch and refuses to leave. Calling in big sister Linda (Boyle) to get their mother to move, the siblings unite for the first time in years. Worried that their mother’s actions point to a larger health issue, the store owner’s daughter (Russell) invites the family to spend the night. As David’s frustration grows, the absurdity and surrealism of the situation grow into a Kafkaesque nightmare.
McGregor carries the film well in his first strong role in years. It’s just a shame his performance is wasted on the ineffectual Mother, Couch. The same can be said for both Boyle and Burstyn, whose physical appearances make them a perfectly cast mother and daughter. Boyle has been missing from the screen for far too long and her performance as the chain-smoking no-nonsense Linda is a welcome return. Burstyn is also in fine form in her role that recalls her turn in Requiem For A Dream. Bewigged and red-lipped, Burstyn lights up the screen as the defiant, unnamed mother, especially when delivering a gut punch of a monologue to David sending him into a tailspin.
It is somewhat of a shocker that Larsson has wrangled this impressive cast for his debut feature. He clearly has a unique vision and original style that will no doubt bring comparisons to Spike Jonze or Charlie Kaufman. His story is at once both too literal and too obscure, no doubt alienating the average viewer. If the TIFF audience is any indication, they bee-lined it out of the theatre as soon as possible with “What was that?” echoing across overheard conversations.
There is far too much going on in Mother, Couch for its runtime but even then, the story sags in the middle. Ultimately, by the time Mother, Couch has reached its conclusion, none of the chaotic pieces have come together cohesively in a satisfying way.