Director Matt Sobel called on production designer Mary Colston and cinematographer Alexander Dynan to subtly emphasize a sense of foreboding in his reimagining of the 2014 Austrian psychological thriller “Goodnight Mommy,” on Prime Video.
Naomi Watts plays a mother who returns home to her sons after having cosmetic surgery, but she’s not quite the same person who left them. Her bandaged face as she recovers hides more than a person healing from a procedure.
Colston wanted the family’s house to play on the idea that it was “a map of trauma.” The home starts out bright and inviting with white walls and high ceilings — a look she calls “Goop mom,” after Gwyneth Paltrow’s aspirational brand.
But as the story unfolds, the boys, Elias (Cameron Crovetti) and Lucas (Nicholas Crovetti), start to notice a behavioral change in their mother. She tears up their drawings; sets up new house rules, such as no running or shouting; and starts smoking. At that point, the visuals start to change and audiences begin to see more of the house.
Dynan’s approach was to experience the house from the boys’ perspective. “We wanted to always be with them, so we used dolly tracking shots and Steadicam at their height so we could see them or what they were looking at,” he says.
Colston made the boys’ bedroom a sanctuary. She used a soothing blue to give it a warm and comforting feel. In contrast, their mother’s bedroom oozes a sense of sickness. The curtains are dark, and the room itself is dim. “The more you get into the room, the more the world makes you question, ‘What is going on with this woman?’” Colston says.
Both Colston and Dynan worked to exaggerate the sense of unease. Deep sea greens and purples were Colston’s go-to colors for Watts’ bedroom, where the drapes were always closed, with just a few shafts of sunlight peeking through.
Even the bathroom, where she’s smoking and ripping up her sons’ drawings, is dimly lit to create a sense of danger. Dynan says: “You think, as an audience, is she just a stressed-out mom? Or is there something else?”