Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘Mommy Dead And Dearest’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2017, Movies by - April 26, 2017
Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘Mommy Dead And Dearest’

The truth is always stranger than fiction.

While the format of Mommy Dead And Dearest follows a template that feels like crime doc 101, the subjects in this film are just so damn compelling that you really can’t look away.

Director Erin Lee Carr delves into the story of Gypsy Rose much like you’d expect as this story of an ailing wheelchair bound little girl is one that would generate sympathy from anyone.  But when she goes missing and her devoted mother Dee Dee is found dead, the narrative changes and some dark secrets come to light.

While the twist in this true crime drama (which I won’t spoil here) comes fairly early on what Carr does it with it is ultimately what draws you in.  Carr makes us as an audience turn our concepts of victim and perpetrator on our ears as nothing ever quite plays out lie you think it might.  She allows the subjects to set the table through historical recaps and sit down interviews turning what we initially thought was a moment of horror into a sympathetic release that allows us to engage with the subjects.

Despite the fact that she’s obviously working with some obvious social and mental handicaps; Gypsy takes us into her life of horror with shocking clarity and realization.  Carr is smart enough to stay out of the way of her own story and allows it to be told in a very natural style; without any big manufactured dramatic moments just the quiet realization that Gypsy was lucky to survive a very sick situation.

It’s nice to see something like Mommy Dead And Dearest which isn’t obviously trying to shape the narrative but instead allowing us to wonder why the hell no one saw what was happening any sooner than they did.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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