What Kind of Mother Are You? (1996) Mel Harris, Nicholle Tom, Alex Carter, Jason Cadieux Movie Review

What Kind of Mother Are You? (1996)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Nicholle Tom in What Kind of Mother Are You? (1996)

What Movie is this?

After her violent father committed suicide and her mother Laura (Mel Harris) remarried, Kelly Hyler (Nicholle Tom) is struggling with the changes and has got herself a boyfriend, Jake (Jason Cadieux), who is a bad influence and a thief. When after yet another run in with the law Kelly is brought home things spiral out of control and she ends up hitting her mum, leading to the police arresting her for assault. But what should have been one night in a cell leads to a nightmare for mum and daughter as the police charge her with assault; Laura misses the court hearing because of the public defendant gives her the wrong time and Kelly ends up in an adolescent center where the girls are abused.

"What Kind of Mother Are You?" could be renamed "What Movie is this?" as it seems to be very mixed up. I suppose the thing about these sorts of movies is you need to have someone to lay the blame on; is it the mother's fault for the situation or is it the daughter's, but there is no real villain in this movie. Instead we have a storyline which not only ends up feeling far fetched due to the series of events but tries to be balanced in such a way that we are lead to sympathise with both mother and daughter.

Mel Harris in What Kind of Mother Are You? (1996)

As such part of "What Kind of Mother Are You?" focuses on Kelly being an angry teen and blaming her mother for her situation, refusing to believe that her real father was violent and choosing to believe that it was her mother who pressed charges. And then we have Laura with a permanent perfect housewife smile who is dealing with a system which is stopping her from being near her daughter. The mix doesn't work at all and even developments, such as Laura's new husband being uncaring, fails to swing the balance towards one or another. It doesn't even feel like a mother's desperate attempts to get her daughter back which I am sure was the idea especially as "What Kind of Mother Are You?" is based on a true story.

But for me the trouble with "What Kind of Mother Are You?" really stems from the mother character as she seems confused to what she is. For the entire movie Mel Harris pays her as this perfect little housewife with a smile on her face even during moments of high drama. It makes her come across as incredibly false which is a shame as Nicholle Tom is far more convincing as the troubled teenage daughter. Although during the latter part of the movie as the focus shifts again to what goes on in the adolescent center her character suddenly takes a huge shift to become a good girl, which feels wrong and too quick.

What this all boils down to is that "What Kind of Mother Are You?" ends up seeming a very confused movie which doesn't know whether it is about a blinkered mother, a troubled teen or a system which abuses juveniles.