THIS film, perhaps versatile actress Nabila Huda Suhaimi's grittiest and saddest to date, deserves to be named Malaysia's best Mother's Day story of all time.
Coming three months earlier, it is not your conventional, heart-warming tribute to mummy dearest but a most brutal, bloody, painful and tragic story centred on young single mother Aini.
One of the finest big screen performances from the actress who is rock legend Amy's eldest daughter, Mama (stylistically written as M4M4) contains lots of graphic and horrific scenes, which does not shy away from highlighting how cruel a fatal gang rape is.
This virtual one-woman performance by Nabila marks the first time she plays the mother of a teenager, and it takes a mere five minutes into the story for viewers to realise that Aini's precocious little daughter has met a most tragic end.
And this is all because her story begins with the dedicated Inspector Azahari (a cool and compassionate Faizal Hussein) taking grief-stricken Aini into the mortuary of a hospital to identify the mangled body of her only child, Alya (newcomer Bella Dowanna).
The camera zooms in on the lifeless girl and her horrible injuries. Courtesy of experienced make-up artist Ika Abdul Hadei, viewers get a good look at Alya's gruesome facial and bodily injuries — deep scratch marks are aplenty on her arms and legs, bloodied and blackened splotches appear all over her face and neck, and a gaping head injury from a ripped forehead.
One will easily break into tears, just as Nabila did on the set, and seethe with anger when the good police officer tells Aini that her daughter died as a result of injuries sustained in a gang rape, and a subsequent blow to the head during her escape.
And one will easily identify with the grief-stricken young mother when she chooses to take the law into her own hands, as Nabila's favourite US actress Jodie Foster did in The Brave One, in order to execute the three (or four) sadistic beasts in cold blood.
It is great to see Nabila take on a difficult role as Aini, for her real-life daughter has only recently turned 11 (screen daughter Alya is 15).
Director Eyra Rahman has depicted Alya as a complete angel. Not only is the girl beautiful on the outside but she also has a heart of gold, faithful to her mother and the memory of her late father, and loyal to her two best friends Elly (Eyra Hazali) and Daniel (Izzy Reef).
Alya's wholesomeness, and the nature of her death, easily makes viewers rally behind Aini as she plots her revenge, wearing a hooded jacket and armed with guns and knives, a la the Erica Bain character in The Brave One.
And despite Inspector Azhari's warnings to "let the law take its course", viewers will naturally cheer as Aini bumps off each of the baddies — Apai (a bespectacled Kodi Rasheed), Luk (Ungku Hariz) and Remy (Niezam Zaidi).
As a first-time actress, 17-year-old Bella is impressive. She is hardly stiff and carries herself with confidence when she interacts with her schoolmates. And the scenes where she is alive with her mother are truly heartwarming because both she and Nabila ooze compassion and honesty.
As for the scene in which she is gang-raped, it is a pain to watch. Even though the evil young men do not get "physical" with her as their heinous crime is only shown on the screen of her smartphone, her screams, cries and calls for her mother make it real.
The baddies are despicable from the start. Viewers will easily hate them when they harass poor Alya at a foodstall, and later kidnap her before performing their ultimate crime in the gutters.
Not only do they act like monsters, they look like monsters, too. They come across as members of a loathesome Mat Rempit or Samseng Jalanan gang found anywhere in the country, and viewers will want to see them eliminated, Terminator-style.
While Kodi is known to play monsters (he was utterly barbaric when he killed Soo Wincci's character in Osman Ali's Kau Yang Satu), Ungku Hariz and Niezam have to date only played "naughty boys", and that means they both deserve a big hand for taking their villainy to the next level.
And Eyra, who is best known for directing the films Bencinta (2013), Pengantin Malam (2014), Dorm Melati (2015) and Kolestrol Vs Cinta (2017) also deserves a big hand for telling a woman's story from a woman's point of view.
It would be great to see her and Nabila coming up with more real stories of real women in the years to come, and hopefully their next project would be one about real-life inspirational Malaysian women.
Mama is a tragedy, but amidst tragedy, viewers will be inspired by Aini. Here stands a single mother who not only raised a lovely daughter, but did her best to make sure that her killers suffered for their vile crime.
Directed by Eyra Rahman
Starring Nabila Huda Suhaimi, Bella Dowanna, Faizal Hussein, Kodi Rasheed, Ungku Hariz, Niezam Zaidi, Eyra Hazali, Izzy Reef, Amanda Hariz, Yusry Abdul Halim
DURATION 90 minutes