Explaining Why the Movie Mom and Dad is a Great Conversation Piece 

Mom and Dad is a mindjob of a movie that is a precursor to Nicolas Cage's movie Mandy. IMDB

Currently conversing with Brian Taylor – the writer and director – for Mom and Dad, and am looking forward to bringing that interview to you discussing this movie in more detail. But before we get there, I have to say, yes, I know, that Mom and Dad isn’t going to win any Academy Awards. It’s not going to compare with Manchester by the Sea, or The Shape of Water. But what it will do? It’ll start a pretty fantastic conversation about zeitgeist of the world we live in today.

Whassa Mom and Dad you ask? So glad you asked. Well, the idea is simple and devastating, simultaneously. Something happens to all of society that makes all parents, everywhere, want to seek out and kill their children. Think about that for about thirty milliseconds. Yeah, it’s a bit like Bushwick in its greatness. Mom and Dad is like one of those stupid Philosophy 101 examples that professors everywhere give. (If you can see for 20 miles around, and you approach an intersection, with a stop sign, do you stop? Should you stop? (I asked this question while in Haiti the other day and was laughed at outright.) Now, you approach that same intersection and there is a cop sitting at one of the stop signs… now do you stop? You get the idea.) It is fascinating, this dilemma – parents everywhere trying to kill their children…

Do you kill your parents? Hide? As a parent, are you released from your moral obligation because of this mental virus that has been set loose? Anyway, why don’t you check out this trailer for the film, and then we can talk in more detail about it.

You get the idea. Yes, it was a fun movie to have Nicolas Cage in. Yes it is an audacious premise. But I had a lot of fun with it at several different key moments. I literally even stopped it to ponder what it might actually be saying, or what it might actually mean. So, I plan to (as I always do) walk through at a super high level of the actual events, and then we will list out the philosophical and moral quandaries and conversational points that I found so interesting.

Spoilers Abound From Here On Out – Mom & Dad Overview
The movie opens with a pretty normal American family. The Ryan’s. But we learn quickly that all is not well at the Ryan household. Mom and Dad, Brent (Nicolas Cage) and Kendell (Selma Blair) don’t have a winning marriage, first of all. Secondly, the kids actively hate their parents. Which, I thought was a 90’s trope that died a long time ago, but regardless. And thirdly, worst of all? The parents actively disdain their children. 

The first thirty minutes of the movie is all about context. But once we’ve gotten that out of the way we finally get our mental virus. Now, to the film maker’s (Brian Taylor) credit, they don’t spend much time trying to explain this mental virus in any significant way. It just is. But maybe, just maybe, someone has hacked into our society’s primal urges and turned them in on themselves. Regardless, we get the idea that this urge is coming from TVs that are spewing some signal or other.

Simultaneously, the entirety of the American landscape is seeing parents begin killing their children wholesale. Parents are flocking to schools to pick up their children early from school. Pregnant mothers, mid-delivery, attempt to crush their babies to death. Moms are pushing strollers into oncoming cars. The action gets pretty horrific pretty quickly.

Eventually, Brent and the kids collide at home. Brent takes a header on a toy and the kids hide in the basement, in hopes of waiting the chaos out. But then Kendell arrives home, and Brent wakes up, and then all hell breaks loose. Damon, Carly’s boyfriend, spends most of the rest of the movie laying on the ground after a violent run in with Mr. Ryan. So, there we have Carly and Josh, stuck in the basement, and their mom and dad trying to get into the basement. So what would you do in that situation? Sure, pipe gas from the oven down into the basement. I mean, sure! From there the chaos only gets more out of control as Kendell and Brent are going full tilt to kill their children. After a bit of this, Brent’s parents show up… and of course, they flip out and want to kill Brent… because, why not? You get the idea.

Mom and Dad and the Conversation We Should Have

The central idea, and central theme of the movie Mom and Dad is controversial to say the least. Parents killing children? No one else? Just their own children? Horrible. Yeah, pretty terrible… unless you realize that the conversation is a deeper one here. Eh? It’s a violent, random sort of a movie. But wait! There is more to it than that. Well there better be!

Tension Between Kids and Parents

So rewind back to the beginning of the film. The tension between the kids and the parents. Brian Taylor writes in his screenplay that Kendell is pining for a relationship with Carly… “Can you stop facebooking while I am trying to talk with you?” And yet, all Carly can think about is her boyfriend and stealing money from her mother’s purse for drugs. It’s sort of a parent’s worst nightmare. It’s my worst nightmare anyway. Not just that your children slip away from you and get older… but that they find you to be anathema to them. An irreconcilable difference. Kids & Parents and the firebombing of Dresden. It’s soul crushing to truly consider.

But what is Brian saying here? What is he calling out? Facebook, Drugs, Money, TV… all get mentions here. A loss of direction, ennui, that results in antipathy between you and everyone you once loved. Ennui. Our society in America shouldn’t be titled Generation X, Y, etc. It should be Ennui X, Ennui Y. That one word categorizes us, encapsulates us and our lives more perfectly than we could ever imagine.

Damon, Carly’s boyfriend is not an enormous player in this movie. But I mention him because of one very specific comment that gave me pause when I heard it. Apparently, his father is an alcoholic. And he mentions that his dad is back to drinking and being hurtful again. Think about that. Damon’s father is now infected with a deadly virus that forces him to try and kill his son. And his son’s only comment? He’s being drunk again. This is a literal indictment on our culture and America in general right there. Damon doesn’t even know his dad had changed. He was just being his normal drunk self. That’s like the saddest thing ever.

Tension Between the Parents

But the relationship between the children and the parents isn’t the only relationship misfiring here. Kendell and Brent are on the ropes too. Brent spends his days watching porn at work and ignoring his wife’s calls. And when he is at home he’s spending it building a pool table he doesn’t even want.

Ok stop. These icons aren’t even things anymore. A pool table for heaven sake. Seriously? That’s a metaphor with it’s own metaphor embedded within it. The frustration here for Brent is that he can’t get it level. CAN’T GET IT LEVEL! Oh my gosh. Do I have to spell absolutely everything out for you?!? Gah. Hahah. He can’t level it? That’s his life. He bought a pool table in order to have something that was his, whether he wanted it or not (ennui anyone?) and so he is spending his time trying to get it installed and setup correctly. But he can’t get it leveled! He can’t get his life leveled either. He can’t control anything in his life, let alone his wife.

So he throws an epic tantrum (perfect vintage Cage) and destroys the pool table. It’s an act of self immolation really. We get the feeling that Brent and Kendell are all but done. But thankfully a mental virus infects their thinking and causes them to try and kill those ungrateful kids… and now they have a common cause.

It was the conversation that came after that pool table diatribe that was most interesting to me. Kendell and Brent slump down on the ground and talk about their original hopefulness heading into parenthood. They wonder what happened to that hopefulness and their marriage. It is possibly one of the most real conversations ever penned in a movie script. And that it arrived in a cult-horror-comedy gore fest is fairly surprising.

Familial Tension Explodes Onto the Streets

Where this story, and this discussion, gets really interesting is when you take the under the surface slow boil of each family and then explode it out onto the streets. In my opinion, this rolling tide of chaos is just a visual picture of what is currently lying under the surface today in our families and in our homes.

I remember going for a walk by myself through the neighborhood I lived in. Now, for me, this is rare. I mean, I go on hikes with my family all the time. But to just randomly walk through the neighborhood by myself? Nah, that’s just not my thing. And as I was walking I heard father’s yelling at the top of their longs. I heard children screaming at siblings. And it really gave me pause. I’m not perfect. By any means. Not only that, but it gave me time to consider how I treated my own children, my wife. Made me consider how spun up I can get about things that don’t really matter.

Which speaks to the larger frustration and selfishness developing below the surface. But thankfully, this movie discusses the problems at a truly high level and cursory at best really. But it speaks to a deeper issue, while also just being entertaining. I’m sure most viewers just glide across the surface and giggle at the premise.

How did the Murdering Parental Virus Spread?

We aren’t given much on where this mental virus came from, what its purposes were. Really, we aren’t given anything at all. But there are a few queues and tips. The first queue was the TV’s throughout the movie glitching and staticking. It lends us to believe that some sort of message was being pumped to the masses through televisions everywhere. And the second hint was a discussion about how attacking the brain’s oldest fight or flight, family protective impulses, might be a way to flip us against ourselves. So maybe this is the beginning of what? An alien invasion? Or maybe it’s not global like I assumed at first, and this is an act of bio-terrorism. I have asked Brian Taylor to comment on this question, we will see what he says on the topic.

What Do Nicolas Cage’s Final Lines Mean?

Nicolas Cage concludes the movie with two lines that are fairly difficult to decipher:

“Don’t you know we love you too? But sometimes we want to……”

And in those two sentences we get the entirety of the purpose and meaning of the whole film. “WAIT WHAT!??” I hear you yelling at your phone. Well, isn’t it clear?! hahah. But maybe if we look at it like an excuse for the whole movie and the bad behavior for all the parents in the movie. Right?

For example, I love my children. But sometimes I just want a break. Sometimes I just want to sleep in. Right? This is obvious. But with Brent saying them at the end of the movie it gets very confusing really quickly. The big question I have, is the 24 hour virus over? Is the infestation have a timeline and we’ve past it? And now Brent is just carrying it forward on his own because he just wants to…? Or is there no end in sight? Will this be the new America? What do you think? Where is this movie going from the ending? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Or what do you think the ending means and what is this movie saying about American culture? Tell us!