Umma

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
 Comments
  • GiraffeDoor - 1 January 2023
    1000 times better than "Mother!"
    I'm tempted to say that this movie is Hereditary except if Hereditary was good.

    Sandra Oh plays the mother, desperate to maintain the small island of stability she has made with vulnerability but also quite resilience.

    The essence of this movie is a relationship characterized by great love but each holds the other back from something maybe much greater. The ghosts (metaphorical?) of our past and our ancestors lurk not far behind as one can never quite run away from who we are and what forges our identity more than the experiences of our formative years?

    Two things mar this: one is the soapy direction they take with the dialogue. It might have worked more if they had established a few things. If she's home schooled, show us her doing a lesson at home or something.

    The other problem is the unfortunate legacy of James Wan as this more delicate example of the horror genre keeps dropping into the same cheesy teen scream imagery and sounds.

    Oh well, the bar by this point is sufficiently low that it can still hold its head up high.
  • presselking - 4 December 2022
    Exploring the Complexities of Mothers, Daughters, and Toxic Relationships
    UMMA explores the complexities of mothers and daughters, toxic relationships, the fear of abandonment, and inherited trauma. There are light spoilers ahead. Written and directed by Iris Shim, with Sam Raimi producing, the film follows Amanda (Sandra Oh), a Korean immigrant and single mother, who lives on a secluded farm with her daughter Chrissy "Chris" (Fivel Stewart). They are almost completely isolated from the outside world, keeping bees and selling honey. Amanda has homeschooled and sheltered Chris for most of her life in a futile attempt to keep her close. The two share an intense bond, that for Amanda stems from deep-rooted trauma.

    As a child, Amanda was abused by her mother, locked in a room, and punished with electrified wires for running away or misbehaving. When Chrissy was an infant, fearful of becoming her mother and repeating abusive habits, Amanda shut off the electrical box under her house. Determined to prevent the atrocities she suffered from happening to Chris, she also concocts a lie about a sensitivity to electronics to ensure they can live an electricity-free life.

    Amanda has suppressed her childhood trauma. Her uncle arrives from Korea, to deliver her Umma's (Korean for mother) ashes in the hopes that she will perform a Jesa ceremony to put her mother's soul to rest. Her uncle explains that Amanda's mother cried out for her as she died, triggering Amanda's fear and anxiety response to her trauma. She hears echoes of the abuse she suffered, her mother's voice whispering in her ear, visions of her mother's ghost, and waking nightmares. I believe that the ghost of her mother and the haunting aren't reality, but a psychological manifestation causing delirium and manic delusions.

    Amanda is suffering from post-traumatic stress that is compounded by the discovery that Chris wants to leave for college. Amanda fears that she will be abandoned which only amplifies her desire to keep Chris close, even if it means fracturing their bond. She projects her fear onto their relationship, and the more she fights against the dissolution of their co-dependency, the more toxic their relationship becomes. This in turn mirrors Amanda's relationship with her mother, and causes her acute distress. It isn't difficult to relate to having a complicated and dysfunctional relationship with your mother. Chris needs to assert her independence, breaking free from the claustrophobic isolation of the farm, feeling othered, and her mother's somewhat suffocating love. Moving away to attend college is a logical way to escape her situation and an attempt to do so without hurting her mother's feelings.

    UMMA doesn't fail to communicate any of its core themes, but they are muddied by the film's lack of tension, and poorly executed jump scares. There's a little too much going on with the way the haunting is represented, which often broke my ability to immerse myself in the narrative. Certain cliches and cultural stereotypes, including the appearance of a Kitsune or Gumiho were perplexing at best. In Korean mythology, the nine-tailed fox is an evil seducer of men, whereas, in Japanese folklore, it is an evil fox with paranormal abilities that can shapeshift into human form. The fox seems meant to symbolize Umma (MeeWha Alana Lee) but is a poor addition to the film's third act. Oh delivers a stunning performance as the tormented Amanda, her portrayal of anguish and fear is easily believed, while the other performances leave much to be desired.

    While the supernatural horror film is a mediocre missed opportunity, its themes make it worth a single viewing. Audiences shouldn't expect a film that will instill terror, but one that uses its horror elements to explore putting what haunts you to rest.
  • thalassafischer - 23 November 2022
    I Really Wanted to Like This Movie
    I love Korean horror and I've even enjoyed Korean comedies and dramas, but this film is entirely for the most basic of people and it is a very American movie. This is not Korean horror, though it may pass for Korean-American supernatural drama about mother-daughter relationships.

    Umma is not terrible but I became bored about halfway through, then within the last half hour I struggled even to stay interested enough to finish the movie. This may appeal to people who watch a lot of mainstream American drama films, which I don't, so I am not saying it's a bad movie - I just balk at the idea that it was marketed to horror fans. It is almost like Lifetime Television for Women or the Hallmark Channel, just with a Korean woman.

    I also had a really hard time believing Sandra Oh's character came from Korea as a young adult (she speaks English not just perfectly but without a trace of an accent, since in real life the actress hails from Canada despite her Korean ancestry). I'm not sure why this is even a plot thread, I think that aspect would have been more believable if the character had come to the United States as a small child with another relative or something.
  • becky-92346 - 10 November 2022
    This film made me feel nothing.
    Umma (2022) follows a woman who's past comes to haunt her when she receives the remains of her abusive mother. This was very disappointing and there was no interesting story throughout the whole film. The cinematography was decent but nothing else was outstanding.

    The cinematography for this film was pretty good and there were some good shots, also there was some good mood lighting in the first half. However, at times the lighting is way too dark and I found it hard to see what was going on. In terms of effects, this film wasn't good. There was a CGI fox near the end that looked terrible and Antichrist (2009) did it way better.

    The movie had a very dull score with not much to it, meaning it added nothing to the experience of watching and invoked zero emotion. The sound design, on the other hand, was pretty decent and created somewhat of an atmosphere.

    The acting was decent but nothing special and the dialogue just felt incredibly mediocre. Some of the acting felt unnatural too and I feel the actors didn't give their strongest performances. However, I did feel for the characters and the mother-daughter relationship was written to be pretty realistic.

    The film wasn't gripping and I found it hard to be interested. When I was half way into the film, literally nothing had happened and the tension wasn't high enough to be impactful. There was just no driving force and it all felt weak with no scares, making it very forgettable for me.
  • Leofwine_draca - 1 November 2022
    Nothing going on here
    UMMA is another one of those slow-burning psychological horror films that might not be horror at all...in fact, I'm struggling to work out exactly what this IS meant to be. It's clearly made on a tiny budget, set in a remote farmhouse where just one character seems to hang around for a very long time until the credits roll. I've never been a fan of Sandra Oh and have no interest in KILLING EVE so she left me totally cold, but the biggest disappointment is that this teases South Korean folklore and has absolutely nothing to do with it. In fact, it has nothing to do with anything, unless you like inanity.
  • HumbleMensa - 28 October 2022
    Why I enjoyed it
    So. This one is old school. Old school in the way that it builds up tension and curiosity about a looming, vague threat of danger and the unknown. While the story is nothing new, I felt the suspense, which in and of itself was a valuable as a watcher. It seems unrealistic, some of it, but it suits the plot. There is an innocence about this movie that reminds me of work from previous generations whereas some of the new flicks of this genre focus on so much fast-paced shock and slime and extreme horror that I quite prefer this sometimes. Sandra Oh is different in this role, unexpected, not necessarily an oscar winning character, but a believable one for the story. Fivel Stewart is finding her way but gives a pretty good performance. All in all, this felt like a late 1980's or early 1990's intensity style thriller, one which actually I quite miss sometimes because it does not go too far.
  • Sleepin_Dragon - 27 October 2022
    An absolute bore fest.
    A woman upset when her Uncle arrives at her home with her late mother's ashes.

    I saw several trailers for this film, and it was made to look really rather good, and quite chilling. The reality though was sadly very different, this film could, and should have been quite something, it wasn't, for 95% of it, it was an absolute bore fest, absolutely nothing happens from beginning to end, having just sat, watching and waiting attentively, I still can't think of anything that actually happened. Efforts to scare simply fell flat, ths came with a 15 rating, I can't imagine anyone at any age being scared.

    I'm a bit fan of Sandra Oh, her efforts on Killing Eve for example, I'll always adore her for that, but here though, there was just no spark of life, or anything. I saw that she had a hand in the film, I'm not sure it'll be something she'll look back on fondly.

    I can't remember being so underwhelmed, 4/10.
  • kelly-rhodes1 - 21 October 2022
    Not a typical horror
    I think if your expecting a horror movie you'll be disappointed but if you peep behind the curtains it's got some lovely messages, the complexity of mother and daughter relationships, the guilt of not being a good enough daughter, the regret of not being a good enough mother, and also moving to a foreign country.

    It gives you some insight into a different culture. Sandra Oh is great in this role and it's simple storyline but complex in other ways.

    Not every horror has to be gruesome or earth shattering, but give you some thought into the parallels of real life, sometimes relationships, real ones can present enough horror!
  • arthur_tafero - 13 October 2022
    Passable Sandra Oh Vehicle - Umma
    Sandra Oh was a successful comedian in the past. Now, she has become a successful dramatic actress; what a nice success story. The story is quite compelling. Many of us fear becoming our mother or father as we get older. This films examines that phenomena in great detail. It is not a horror film, or even a scary film, but it is an introspective film, where one examines one's development in life. How much like our father or mother have we become? Is it true the acorn does not fall far from the tree? See for yourself in the production of Umma, the story of a Koren immigrant who has to deal with these and other issues. Good viewing.
  • rrberthelot - 1 October 2022
    Sandra Oh is better than this.
    Okay, so this is just every middle aged woman's fear of becoming their mother turned into a horror film, and while I'm glad it's not another shakey cam film or cautionary tale about premarital sex (looking at you It Follows), I've seen better. It's themes are painfully heavy handed. But then they throw this kitsune imagery from out of nowhere, and I cannot tell you what it has to do with the rest of the film. Really, what this movie lacks is any sense of subtlety. The whole concept of a woman living off the grid clinging to her daughter is very not subtle. Hell, one character even says, "I'm becoming my mother." NOT SUBTLE. It probably would have been 100% better if she'd just been any average woman in an American suburb, whose daughter is in school, and she's suddenly visited by her uncle with the remains of her abusive mother. Then it probably would have hit a little closer to home for most people.
  • HeyimShibby - 29 September 2022
    tiw umma
    Today i watched mommy in korean and it was very boring

    This is a good first feature, well, besides the documentary.

    But good first feature does not mean good movie and I think this film was incredibly boring and predictable and INCREDIBLY ANNOYING. There is this really annoying sound effect that they spam in the film and it is so cliche, they use it a lot in hells kitchen.

    I like what the film is saying thematically and I appreciate the film makers for trying, but often times the film is just really derivative. Nothing happens for the first 30 minutes and there is just virtually no opening hook.

    The characters feel mildly flimsy and it doesn't seem convincing sometimes. Like things feel often forced for the sake of the story and it doesn't always feel natural.

    Overall I wouldn't recommend this film if you've ever seen a horror movie ever. Acting was fine and like this was a good try, but in the end it felt like a snooze fest. I wish the director luck with their next film though.

    Mid 4/10.
  • Reviews_of_the_Dead - 25 September 2022
    Review for Umma
    This is a movie that caught my attention thanks to trailers at the Gateway Film Center. I've been using them for 2022 to see what movies are coming to their location for this year. Once I realize it is horror, I tend to focus on something else to not spoil the movie. This one also caught the attention of Jaime and we saw it together during opening weekend. I've now given it a second viewing to see where I sat with it.

    Synopsis: Amanda (Sandra Oh) 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.

    We start with hearing dialogue that is voiced over. It is a daughter talking to her mother. From what we are hearing, the daughter is being punished and the mother is harsh. It then shifts to Amanda as she takes a lamp into the basement of her house. She then shuts off the power.

    The movie then shifts into the future. I believe around 16 years or so. Amanda has a daughter of Chris (Fivel Stewart). They live in isolation on their farm. From newspapers we learn that they have a successful honey business. They raise their own bees. They also live off the grid. Amanda is also convinced that she has a disease that causes her to not be around electricity. She is terrified of thunderstorms as well.

    To make a living, Amanda also does the accounting for a local store that is run by Danny (Dermot Mulroney). He brings out supplies that she needs as payment. He also sells the honey that this farm makes. He reveals to her that someone online has been advertising her product and they cannot keep up with the orders. She comes up with the plan that they'll expand and in turn, need more hives.

    This isn't necessarily the life that Chris wants to lead. She longs to have friends. When she goes to the store, she meets Danny's niece by the name of River (Odeya Rush). The two become friends of sorts. Danny has also done some things to help Chris get out into the world. This was done behind the back of Amanda.

    During Chris' trip to the store, she encounters a man who speaks Korean. She cannot understand him, which annoys this man. It turns out that he is her great uncle. He changes their lives by bringing to Amanda the remains of her mother. They were estranged and from the events in the beginning, there seemed to be a history of abuse. Amanda changed her name and shunned her culture. The issues she had with her mother were unresolved. She needs to deal with them as she comes to terms with her own daughter leaving her. Amanda's mother has deep seeded hatred that is manifesting itself and changing the lives of her family.

    That is where I will stop with fleshing out the synopsis as well as giving a bit more background information to the characters. Now what I will say, there isn't a lot to the story of this movie. We are seeing more of characters study here. What I did find interesting is that we're exploring familial generations. Going along with this idea, this film is introducing those that don't know about Korean lore with their religion. I would be included here and it was something I appreciated. This also feels like a personal story as well.

    Where I will start then will be with our lead, Amanda. From the beginning, we know that she was abused by her mother. We see that she fears a specific lamp. She also has a fear of electricity. I figured that played in with the torture her mother did to her. We are seeing that Amanda has developed a psychosis by never coming to terms with it. Later in the movie, Chris confronts Danny about what he knows. He confirms that he knew about her disease and unresolved issues. He tried to get Amanda to talk to someone, but she refused. This is an interesting commentary on mental health and how we're afraid to get the help we need. It is still looked down on and taboo. I'm thinking here we might also be getting that people from Asian societies are stricter as well.

    Before moving from this, we get an interesting scene late in the movie where Amanda is confronting her mother. Her mother is portrayed by MeeWha Alana Lee. I like that Amanda confirms what this older woman went through and it humanizes her. The whole movie we are just hearing the horrible things she said and as we go, did to her daughter. I think this is a solid move when dealing with a vengeful spirit like we are here. Many times, especially in film, we are seeing how bad a character is without getting to see there was good there. I like what this movie does.

    Next should be the relationship between Amanda and Chris. Since Amanda had such a rough upbringing, she has hidden her daughter from learning the ways that she did in Korea. This is an interesting look at assimilation into the United States. Amanda had a bad experience with her Korean roots. Chris then knows nothing of them. She is completely American. Going along with this though, Amanda is abusing her in a different way by hiding her away. There is a fine line here though. I don't want to tell Amanda how to parent. I can see though that by isolating her daughter, she is stunting her growth. Despite what Amanda wanted to do, she has gone the other extreme to protect her daughter and in turn, is acting like her own mother.

    The last bit about the story would then be the supernatural elements. Like many movies, there is a way to look at this as nothing is truly happening. I lean toward there is so that is where I'll go first. From the moment this suitcase gets dropped off, Amanda believes she is seeing her mother. I think they do well here with building the atmosphere. It is creepy and I love that is playing with things being in the background. The camera is focusing on something, but the frame is being fully utilized. I give credit here as well to the cinematography. The other way to see is that having Amanda's uncle show up has forced her to remember things and she is descending into madness from depression and guilt. It could be seen this way as it is Amanda experiencing it. Chris only does through Amanda and when she is acting different. Either way you look at this explains the movie. I think that she is feeling these real things, but also being haunted.

    Where I'll go then is the acting. I think that Oh is great here as the mother. She plays it so well. At one minute she is a loving mother who is a bit overbearing. She quickly shifts to being more like her mother so having that duality within her works. I thought that Stewart was fine. She does play her character a bit awkward at times, but I think that is on purpose. She is isolated and lacking life experiences. It adds a layer to her character for sure. Lee is solid as the 'villain'. Mulroney, Rush, Yi and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed as well.

    The last things to go into would be the effects and soundtrack. For the former, we don't get a lot of them. We also don't need them either. I'm guessing what they did was CGI. I thought it looked good. There are times it is out of focus, which helps. Some are done with perspective of the character as well which creeps me out. What they do here is effective, once again credit to the cinematography as well. The soundtrack gets a lot of credit here. It builds the atmosphere that is needed. I also thought the voice-overs help give backstory which I'll give credit to as well.

    In conclusion, this movie was solid. It has a good set up that pulled me in. I like the commentary that we are getting here about parenting and the effects it has on children. There is also the fear of becoming your parent. The acting is good. It helps bring the characters to life. I like what they do with building the atmosphere. If I do have an issue, I think the movie loses steam as it goes. What they built in the beginning, didn't have a payoff that I necessarily wanted in the end. I think part of this is again that it is a personal story. This movie is still one that I enjoyed. To me, it is an above average movie that just misses out on being good to me.

    My Rating: 7 out of 10.
  • justahunch-70549 - 13 September 2022
    Awful
    There are a few interesting ghostly images that pop up here and there, but this film cannot make up its mind if it's about ghosts or about possession or, I guess, perhaps both in some very stupid way. The writing is truly horrific. Dermot Mulroney has a small role and is believable and Fivel Stewart, who I am completely unfamiliar with despite a long list of credits, has some presence, but the usually excellent Sandra Oh is just bad and since she is also the Executive Producer, she has not many to blame for being in this debacle. Trust me, there are much better things to do with your life than sitting through this.
  • Marty73022 - 8 September 2022
    Enjoyable Enough
    Umma was a very refreshing movie for me. It's not too often that I watch horror movies, and the psychological horror genre is one that isn't too common. I enjoyed watching the small cast of characters, who were all portrayed very well thanks to good acting. The cinematography was also unique with camera angles shifting through scenes and great usage of the darkness to help visualize the trauma the characters were feeling. However, there is one big issue with this movie that makes me unable to rate it higher than a 6. I reserve 7 and up for movies that I'll want to rewatch, this movie has nothing to offer in a rewatch. The entire message of the movie is force fed to you, the movie leaves nothing for the audience to think about or consider. Umma also won't leave any impression on me, because the message of this movie is targeted towards a specific type of person which I'm not categorized with. While I can understand the characters, it's impossible for me to relate to the characters because I don't have anything in common with them. I believe this is true for most people.