I Remember Mama Movie Review

A sentimental but well-intentioned portrait of an immigrant family, I Remember Mama is an oddity for Hollywood -- very slow, almost entirely lacking in dramatic punch, but surprisingly realistic. Martha Hanson (Irene Dunne) is the center of a Norwegian-American family in early 20th century San Francisco. (The row houses are still standing, but no one who lives in them has to count pennies.) The story is narrated by a daughter (Barbara Bel Geddes) who worshipfully portrays her mother through her own somewhat selfish lens, but allows us to see her mother as she is: uneducated, strong, simple, forthright, and content. Like so many immigrants, Mama unsentimentally embraces her new country and raises her children as acculturated Americans, without changing herself.

The role was a stretch for Irene Dunne, usually a comedienne who teamed with Cary Grant, among others, in screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s (The Awful Truth, etc.). Unfortunately, the film signaled her retirement rather than a new beginning.

The sentimentality of the film wears at times. The film's slowness, in particular the overlong death scene of Uncle Chris (Oskar Homolka), is almost Bergmanesque, though the similarity is shattered by the fake Norwegian accents, I guess. Unlike Bergman's characters, though, the members of the Hanson family are mostly morally admirable (even Uncle Chris, who has quietly given his money to the needy). And while it's easy to get impatient with the film's pace, and to criticize the trite and obvious moments, the characters are portrayed warmly and with unusual realism.


Comments

I Remember Mama Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: NR, 1948

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