Mothers' Instinct | Picturehouse Recommends

Oscar winners Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain face off in this twisty, 60s-set psychological thriller.

Helen O'Hara

25 Mar 24

Benoît Delhomme

Release Date
29 March


Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Josh Charles, Anders Danielsen Lie


Running Time
94 mins

It's always exciting to see a project that offers a perfect excuse for two hugely talented actors to face off and push one another to greater heights.

That looks to be just what we're getting in the new film from debutant French director Benoît Delhomme. Oscar winners Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain play the feuding leads in a tale of grief, guilt and social conformity that looks set to become one of the most fascinating thrillers of the year.

Chastain's Alice and Hathaway's Céline are neighbours and best friends in 1960s suburbia, apparently living the picture-perfect life as housewives and devoted mothers. Their two sons are also lifelong friends, happily playing in one another's houses each afternoon. However, when there's an accident involving one of the children, all those neatly maintained facades come tumbling down.

Expect bubbling tension and near- unbearable heartbreak, all informed by suspicions, doubts and paranoia – the perfect ingredients for a gripping unforgettable psychological thriller.

At the centre of Mothers' Instinct is the superstar pairing of Chastain and Hathaway. This is the third time they have worked together, after Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and James Gray's Armageddon Time but this is the first time they've shared scenes together. It was Chastain's idea to bring Hathaway on board as both an actor and fellow producer and it's an inspired one.

Given their back catalogue in compelling drama – Chastain was Oscar-nominated for The Help and Zero Dark Thirty and won for The Eyes Of Tammy Faye; Hathaway was nominated for Rachel Getting Married and won for Les Misérables – the prospect of these two titans playing out a an unpredictable battle of wits is electrifying.

It's fitting that Chastain and Hathaway are off-screen pals, as Mothers' Instinct is a powerful portrait of female friendship in all its complexity. The intimate, shifting bond between the two is eminently relatable. Josh Charles (The Good Wife) and Anders Danielsen Lie (The Worst Person In The World) as the two husbands provide sterling support, playing complex characters navigating an increasingly fraught situation.

The heart of the film, though, is the relationship between these two mothers, these friends, and how that unravels as recriminations begin to drive them apart. A remake of a well- received 2018 Belgian film, Duelles, by Olivier Masset- Depasse, itself based on the bestselling book by author Barbara Abel, Mothers' Instinct marks the directorial debut of Benoît Delhomme, one of the most in-demand cinematographers in the business, responsible for such visually striking films as The Proposition and The Theory Of Everything.

Delhomme brings the same eye to this, turning his lens on the style, cool cars and the picket fence culture of '60s American suburbia. The costume design delivers delectable, desirable outfits but this isn't fashion for fashion's sake. The wardrobe of each character – Alice's prints and lightweight fabrics, Céline's starched classical looks – offer key insights into their mindset.

The '60s trappings bring to mind not only detailed period dramas like Mad Men but also the great thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock. Mothers' Instinct works in a similar register but in the service of mining the darker side of motherhood.

This promises an examination of social pressures, frustrated lives and patriarchy, all wrapped in an intelligent, engrossing mystery carried along by two of the best actors working today.   Helen O'Hara

In The Know


A big challenge for the filmmakers was to find two neighbouring, mirror-image homes with very specific design elements. The exhaustive search ended when the production found two homes in Cranford, New Jersey


Anne Hathaway has said Céline "was the hardest role I have played". She told Vogue Hong Kong, "It touched my worst fear and I almost backed out of the film because I didn't know if I could go there as an actress."


Delhomme has worked with both lead actors before as a cinematographer: with Chastain on Salomé, and with Hathaway on One Day.

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Mothers' Instinct is in cinemas from 29 March Book Now!