Yeah, yeah, I know Halloween’s over. But bear with me, because I always say Halloween lasts until mid-November. After that, maybe I’ll do a few Christmas films, but since Halloween is my favourite time of year, I like to extend it just a little bit, okay? Let me just have this one thing before I get caught up in some terrible Hallmark stuff. Please.
Umma is a film that is set in America (or Canada, maybe?), but features quite a lot of Korean culture and language along the way. The indomitable Sandra Oh plays Amanda, a Korean ex-pat who has now found a new way of life in a different country. She lives a quiet life as a single mother in a cottage in the middle of nowhere with her daughter, making a living by producing organic honey. Her sweet little life doesn’t stay quiet forever however, as when her birth mother is revealed to have passed away, an uncle brings her mother’s remains to Amanda’s home and unleashes a mysterious evil into the air.
Let me just pitch something right here, because this is exactly what this movie felt like. AU: Cristina Yang abandons her career as a surgeon in favour of becoming a beekeeper who makes internet-viral honey. Yep, I’d watch that. It can’t be just me.
Umma is such a weird film in that it all happens so quickly (literally: it’s less than 90 minutes long) but it simultaneously feels like a really slow burn. We begin with an average single mother who has her own business and some clear, almost unhinged quirks, and then it cascades into something altogether more sinister. The problem is, it’s so obvious at every turn where the movie is going that it becomes a bit of a snooze. Basically, the pacing is really fucking weird.
Once again, this is a film that has generational trauma at the forefront, albeit this time with a horror-filled twist. However, it feels like we’ve seen it all before at this point. Such themes are clearly important and impactful, but this time it’s just a bit tedious and it doesn’t really hit you in the way it’s supposed to. Maybe the script isn’t all that great, maybe it’s that the horror elements are kind of generic. Whatever it is, it’s all a bit forgettable when all is said and done.
What I won’t slander for one second is Sandra Oh’s performance. Although it’s a given that she could never turn in a bad one, Oh is undoubtedly the best thing about this movie. She does fun well, she does creepy well, she does just about everything well. Alongside Daniel Kaluuya, she may just have some of the most expressive eyes in the entire acting industry. The rest of the cast are good and there’s nothing wrong with anyone’s performance, but they all pale in comparison to Oh. Which is to be expected, really.
In short, Umma is not a must-see. It’s fine for what it is, but there’s no way it’s getting into any “Best Horror Movies of the 21st Century” lists either. Nevertheless, if you’re a Sandra Oh stan, there’s no shame in adding this to your watchlist.
Umma is currently available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.
TQR Category Ratings:
Costume & Set Design:
Overall Enjoyability Rating: ½