After I finished watching and reviewing Night of the Wild, it was time to continue cleaning out my DVR by watching A Mother’s Instinct. A Mother’s Instinct premiered on Lifetime on November 9th. On that night, I was out celebrating my upcoming birthday with my family. Fortunately, before I left, I remembered to set the DVR to record A Mother’s Instinct.
Like many Lifetime films, A Mother’s Instinct takes place in the suburbs. It’s the type of place that is perfect on the surface but the digger you deep, the more ugliness you discover. It’s the type of place where happy families are never quite as happy as they seem. It’s the type of place where danger lurks in the shadows, waiting for the chance to make itself known. It’s the type of place where the pervert across the street takes pictures of his neighbor undressing in front of her bedroom window. It’s the type of place where pets are kidnapped and killed and left on a driveway as a threat.
It’s also the home of the Bettners, mother Nora (Josie Bissett), teenage daughter Scarlett (Sarah Grey, who had a similar role in director Jason Bourque’s earlier Lifetime film, The Wrong Girl), and youngest child, Gus (Spencer Drever). When Gus disappears, Nora and Sarah immediately suspect that he’s been kidnapped by Seth Durand (Richard Harmon). Seth and his mother have just moved in across the street. Before Gus vanished, Seth was spying on and harassing Scarlett. After Gus vanishes, Seth taunts the Bettners. Or, at the very least, it seems that he does. Is Seth guilty or is he just a jerk? This is the question that rests at the heart of A Mother’s Instinct.
Nora’s instinct is that Seth is guilty but despite her belief, the police have no proof that Seth kidnapped Gus. So, with Scarlett’s help, Nora abducts Seth and, after stripping him down to his underwear, locks him in a cage and proceeds to torture and interrogate him. Soon, that cage becomes Nora’s private version of Gitmo, with Seth as her helpless prisoner. The more that Seth claims to be innocent, the more extreme Nora’s methods become. Eventually, even Scarlett starts to worry that they’re going too far…
But are they? Up until the final 30 minutes of the film (at which point something happens that pretty much answers all of our questions), we’re never quite sure whether Seth is innocent or if he’s guilty. Our natural instinct is to assume that he must be guilty because the kid is such a creep. But, as Nora’s methods get more and more extreme, we’re left to wonder if she’s the one making the mistake. Has she now crossed the lines and become the dangerous one? Or is she just doing what needs to be done to save her family? That sense of moral ambiguity is what sets A Mother’s Instinct apart from other abduction-theme Lifetime movie.
Though the plot is similar to 2013’s Prisoners, A Mother’s Instinct manages to establish an identity of its own. It’s an intense film that will keep you guessing about whether Seth is guilty or innocent. Richard Harmon gives an excellent performance as the creepy Seth, making the viewers feel both sympathy and revulsion towards the character. Josie Bissett is perfectly intense as the determined mother while Sarah Grey does a good job of capturing both Scarlett’s anger and her doubts. A Mother’s Instinct is a good and intense Lifetime movie, the type that will keep you guessing until the end.