Amanda and her daughter live a quiet life on an American farm, but when the remains of her estranged mother arrive from Korea, Amanda becomes haunted by the fear of turning into her own mother.

  • Released: 2022-03-18
  • Runtime: 83 minutes
  • Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thrillers
  • Stars: Sandra Oh, Fivel Stewart, Dermot Mulroney, Odeya Rush, MeeWha Alana Lee, Tom Yi, Mark Kirksey
  • Director: Iris K. Shim
  • danieleurbani - 22 May 2024
    A beautiful ghost story
    It's a shame many did not appreciate this film.

    I suspect it is because of the psychological themes that might make some people feel uncomfortable. Also, there are some people who just want horror movies to be shallow.

    But this isn't just a horror movie, it's also a ghost story, and ghost stories tell a story, ussually. And that story is ghost's but also of their loved ones or people who were around them when they were alive.

    The Others is highly rated and it does tell a story too, even though it doesn't go to tgw depths of Umma.

    Also, I really liked the Korean cultural and religious context. It's fascinating and also, in the end, it doesn't matter whether you're American, Korean, British, German, Indian, etc. Some parent-child dynamics never change. They might be more accentuated in some countries and cultures than in others, but I think this story is relatable, and yes, it's meant to make you feel uncomfortable.
  • I_Ailurophile - 3 September 2023
    Terrific ideas, treated poorly with abject heavy-handedness
    Themes swiftly present of identity, family, and trauma, with others following in turn including fear, stubbornness, and prejudice. Wrapped up in all these, of course, is the overarching notion of motherhood, and the relationship between mother and daughter. In totality 'Umma' comes across as a psychological drama, and more specifically given the obviously bent as psychological horror, as protagonist Amanda struggles with a difficult past, memories of her abusive mother, and a test of her relationship with her own daughter. All these are terrific ideas, and no less so are the supernatural elements to the story, or the combination of the two. To all this add splendid conceptions of buzzing atmosphere in Roque Baños' score, a strong and capable cast, excellent filming locations and production design, and appreciable effects. The foundations here are sturdy in my opinion, and although I haven't particularly known anything about it, I've been looking forward to watching.

    Regrettably, for all the potential the picture bears, things break down a bit beyond the basic groundwork. The one thing required above all when fiction takes a psychological approach is a delicate, nuanced hand to let all the underhanded, sinister wit come out in exact, measured proportions. Whether one recognizes that tack here or not, the fact invariably remains that 'Umma' is pointedly heavy-handed in far too many ways. This sense extends to how Baños' score is employed, and overzealous instances of editing and cinematography. It extends to the needlessly dim imagery - pervasive use of shadow that is part and parcel of a chief trait of Amanda's, and which is clearly intended to foster anxiety about what lurks in the dark, but which instead just comes across as poor lighting and basic visualization of a scene. That heavy-handedness extends to dialogue, scene writing, characterizations, and the details of the plot beyond its commendable roots. It extends to the effects, direction, would-be jump scares and other tools of the genre trade - and, in turn, to the acting.

    Plot development, and the shifts in how characters are written, are the most glaringly overt and tactless of all. In consequence, any atmosphere, thrills, chills, fright, or even just plain drama that the tale should impart are severely diminished. I repeat most emphatically that there are terrific ideas at the core of this feature. What they needed to succeed, however, was much more careful, judicious handling, a mind for subtlety and understated refinement; What we get instead is all too unsophisticated, barefaced, and forthright; what could and should have been a sly, clever, disturbing meditation on cycles of abuse and the other pertinent themes instead becomes dull and kind of laborious. Sadly, this is never more true than in the last ten to fifteen minutes of the length: we are treated to gawkily plainspoken elucidation of the stated themes, and other visual and storytelling elements (e.g., an encounter Chrissy has outside the house) that have never been touched upon at any point heretofore in the runtime, that are not explained, and which therefore feel extraneous and ill-fitting. There was great potential in 'Umma' - and it pretty much just goes to waste.

    I don't think this is outright bad, but it's unfortunately all too weak and uninteresting to ever capture the imagination, or to achieve anything but the most passive and halfhearted engagement from even the most committed of cinephiles. It could have been meaningful and impactful, especially in bringing some aspects of Korean culture into a rather mainstream American horror flick - but it's not. Just for the fact of its troubles and shortcomings, I'm sorry to say I think this slips to "below average." I wish nothing but the best for all involved; above all, I hope that filmmaker Iris K. Shim grows in her skills and impresses in the future. This 2022 movie, however, is a bit of a dud, and I'm hard-pressed to really offer it as a recommendation.