aka The Frazzled Mom
Wow, what a movie. I wasn’t sure how I would like it. It was intense! Note: There are spoilers in this review, but I did leave the ending out.
We are introduced to the mother (Christine), daughter (Rhoda), friend (Monica) and a whole cast of players intertwined in this chilling mystery. In the first scene, Rhoda seems like any other sweet eight year old girl, until the mention of her losing to a classmate in a competition visibly upsets her. She shouts that she should have won the medal and not the Daigle boy.
As Rhoda leaves for a picnic, the caretaker (Leroy) “accidentally” waters her pretty shoes. Rhoda is furious and yells at him, but Leroy continues to claim his innocence. With her reaction, he sets to tease her through the movie, baiting her into screaming or yelling. Though she acts the pretty girl, Leroy suspects she’s really a brat underneath.
The story unfolds as Rhoda joins her class at a picnic. News reaches Christine that the Daigle boy drown. Rhoda returns home unfazed by the event. In fact, she notes that it was exciting to watch them fish the boy’s body out of the water and work to revive him. The mother is only slightly suspicious at this point. It isn’t until a few visitors (Miss Fern and Mrs. Daigle) come by asking the whereabouts of the boy’s missing medal that suspicions begin to rise. Christine denies that Rhoda would have any knowledge of the medal’s location, though I wasn’t entirely convinced that she believed what she was saying. Later, Christine finds the very medal hidden in Rhoda’s treasure box.
Abhorred at the possibility that Rhoda had anything to do with the boy’s death, she pleads for the truth. I thought the directing was brilliant. I could feel my own frustration rise as Christine continually asks questions only to have Rhoda evade and distract with tapping shoes, playing with things, anything but addressing her mother. And when Christine pushes her to focus, her response is “What a sweet mommy. What a pretty mommy I have”.
Christine is going through an internal struggle that begins to show outwardly. In an effort to help, Monica offers her a bottle of sleeping pills. Handing her two bottles, Monica notes that the other contains vitamins for Rhoda and that both are clearly marked so as not to cause confusion. (Foreshadowing!)
What is shocking is when Christine finally hears (and accepts) the truth from Rhoda. “I kept on hitting him, Mother!” She had caught Rhoda in the act of disposing the murder weapon(s) used to kill the boy. After a brief moment in contemplation, she instructs her daughter to throw them in the incinerator and never speak of the event to anyone.
Leroy had been teasing Rhoda about the Daigle boy’s murder. He tried to bother her with the idea that blood cannot be washed off from a murder weapon. He really only saw her as a brat and hadn’t seriously considered that she was involved in the boy’s death. Rhoda shows brief signs of worry, but quickly dismisses them when she realizes Leroy is referring to a stick. Leroy continues to press the issue, seeing she isn’t bothered much. And that is when he deduces what the real murder weapon was and, once he identifies the weapon, Rhoda yells that she had disposed of them in the incinerator. Leroy claims he fished them out. When Rhoda threatens him, demanding them back, he tells her he was only teasing, but finally realizes just what kind of person she really is.
Christine felt the worst was behind them, because she was surprised when she heard Rhoda yelling at Leroy again. She scolded her about talking of the incident and sent her into the house. Meanwhile, Leroy returned to the basement where he began shifting through the ashes of the incinerator. He makes a startling discovery.
In the house, we hear the familiar bell of the ice cream man. Rhoda asks if she can go outside for an ice cream. On her way out, she grabs a handful of matches. Christine snaps at her, instructs they be put back, which Rhoda complies. However, on leaving the room, we see three matches in Rhoda’s hand.
In minutes, Rhoda is back with her ice cream and happily heads to her room. As she begins playing the piano, a man suddenly screams in agony and for help. The household searches for the source while Rhoda remains in her room practicing. What I think is great about this scene is the agitation that is caused by the piano playing. It grows louder and faster as Christine unravels emotionally knowing exactly what has happened. Another example of this type of scene: Dead Again (1991).
The mother finally comes to the realization of what she has done by protecting Rhoda. “It isn’t what she’s done, it’s what I’ve done.”
After the incident with Leroy, we again find Rhoda ready for bed as always and Christine by her side reading her to sleep. Pausing for a moment, Christine reminds Rhoda to take her new vitamins. After Rhoda swallows approximately four or six pills, she curls up and falls asleep.
If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s a must. The ending is sure not to disappoint. Enjoy!