Director Matt Sobel called on production designer Mary Colston and cinematographer Alexander Dynan to subtly emphasize a sense of doom in his reinvention of 2014’s Austrian psychological thriller “Goodnight Mommy” on Prime Video.
Naomi Watts plays a mother who returns to her sons after cosmetic surgery, but she’s not quite the same person who left them. Her bandaged face as she recovers hides more than a person recovering from a procedure.
Colston wanted the family’s house to play with the idea that it was “a map of trauma.” The house starts out bright and inviting with white walls and high ceilings – a look she calls “Goop mom,” after Gwyneth Paltrow’s ambitious brand.
But as the story unfolds, the boys, Elias (Cameron Crovetti) and Lucas (Nicholas Crovetti), begin to notice a change in their mother’s behavior. She tears up their drawings; establishes new house rules, such as no running or yelling; and starts smoking. At that point, the images begin to change and the public begins to see more of the house.
Dynan’s approach was to experience the house from the boys’ perspective. “We always wanted to 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 turned the boys’ bedroom into a refuge. She used a soothing blue to give it a warm and comforting feel. Their mother’s bedroom, on the other hand, radiates a sense of illness. The curtains are dark and the room itself is dim. “The more you enter the room, the more the world makes you wonder, ‘What’s going on with this woman?’” Colston says.
Both Colston and Dynan tried to exaggerate the feeling of unease. Deep-sea greens and purples were Colston’s favorite colors for Watts’ bedroom, where the curtains were always drawn and only a few rays of sunlight peeked through.
Even the bathroom, where she smokes and tears up her sons’ drawings, is dimly lit to create a sense of danger. Dynan says: “Do you think, as an audience, is she just a stressed out mom? Or is there something else?”