Set in the 1950s, Mothers’ Instinct follows Veerle Baetens’ Alice as she becomes more and more suspicious of her seemingly friendly next-door neighbor’s (Anne Coesens’ Céline) intentions towards her young son. Filmmaker Olivier Masset-Depasse certainly does an effective job of immediately capturing the viewer’s interest and attention, as Mothers’ Instinct boasts an impressively strong opening that doesn’t offer a hint as to where the narrative might be going – with the appealingly mysterious vibe proving effective, at least at the outset, of compensating for an often egregiously deliberate pace. There does reach a point, however, at which Masset-Depasse’s exceedingly patient sensibilities begin pushing the viewer away, as the lurid subject matter has been shoved into the confines of a slow-moving melodrama rife with questionable elements (and it’s clear, too, that said elements are highlighted and emphasized by the incongruously restrained approach). The picture’s progressively arms-length feel is exacerbated by Masset-Depasse’s reluctance to deliver the over-the-top visuals the material seemingly demands (eg Brian De Palma would’ve had a field day with this script), and although it ends on a seriously impressive (and irresistibly grim) note, Mothers’ Instinct has long-since confirmed its place as a disappointing misfire that rarely rises to the level of its promising subject matter.
** out of ****