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Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and the chicest 60s fashion: all the reasons to see new psychological thriller Mothers' Instinct

The Oscar winners star in and produce spring's most gripping drama

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mothers' instinct film
Esther Coombes
Content Lead
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Boasting two Academy Award winners, a beguiling storyline and stunning 1960s costume design, Mothers' Instinct is top of our must-see list for spring. 

In the captivating psychological thriller, in UK cinemas from 27 March, housewives Alice (Jessica Chastain) and Céline (Anne Hathaway) are best friends and neighbours who seemingly have it all. 

But when a tragic accident shatters the harmony of their lives, guilt, suspicion and paranoia begin to unravel their sisterly bond, and a gripping battle of wills ensures. 

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With the likes of One Day, The Theory of Everything and Breaking and Entering on his resumé, French cinematographer Benoît Delhomme makes his directorial debut in this new adaptation of the famed French novel Derrière la Haine and 2018 film Duelles.  

Alice, her husband Simon (Anders Danielsen Lie) and son Theo (Eamon O’Connell) are living the 1960s suburban dream in New Jersey next door to their close friends Céline (Anne Hathaway), Damian (Josh Charles), and their son Max (Baylen D. Bielitz). 

Anders Danielsen Lie, Jessica Chastain and Eamon O’Connell play a family in 1960s suburbia
Anders Danielsen Lie, Jessica Chastain and Eamon O’Connell play a family in 1960s suburbia

Tragedy strikes when Max accidentally falls from his family’s balcony, with Alice watching events unfold from her garden and unable to rescue him in time. Whilst she feels immense guilt, it becomes clear Céline holds her accountable, and Alice starts to experience what may or may not be paranoid delusions about Céline seeking revenge for her loss in this unnerving and captivating tale. 

The film explores friendship, grief and the darker side of maternal love, and producer Paul Nelson tells HELLO! Fashion: “It’s a great thriller that's different, surprising, and unique on its own but it also has friendship and motherhood at its core, and explores how each one of us handles tragedy in a different way.”

With Hathaway and Chastain also acting as producers, the team has adapted the script to address the sexual politics of the 1960s and closely examine the roles of men and women of the time. 

They reference the idea of a gilded cage that women of the era felt trapped in, and the “aspect of misogyny... and this character, Céline, who played the part and did everything right” explains executive producer John Zois. 

“When she has that aspect of motherhood stripped away, not only does she lose some of her sense of identity, but she also loses the reason she felt she was put on this earth.”

Anne Hathaway as Céline (L) and Caroline Lagerfelt (R) who plays Alice's mother in law
Anne Hathaway as Céline (L) and Caroline Lagerfelt (R) who plays Alice's mother-in-law

Also starring Gossip Girl's Caroline Lagerfelt, “The story shifts from suburban drama to a real Hitchcockian thriller” Benoît Delhomme tells HF. “Céline is a character who has just lost herself in the tragedy. Part of the thrill of the movie is that you don't know what's going on inside the minds of Alice or Céline.”

With a strong visual identity to match the performances of the cast, Mothers' Instinct recalls the glamorous golden era of the 60s, with a collaboration between production designer Russell Barnes and costume designer Mitchell Travers. 

They've ensured that the film’s aesthetics are stunning yet subtly executed, to compliment but never detract from the powerful performances played out by real-life friends Anne and Jessica.

IRL friends Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain deliver powerhouse performances
IRL friends Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain deliver powerhouse performances

As Travers shares: “I had to understand the dressing rooms and the closets of these women. I was hugely inspired by the architecture of both of their houses. At the time, they are both homemakers so I was trying to understand how the house was a visual representation of them as well. I really got myself into the minds of these very different women. What I found really helpful was to look into vintage catalogues as if I was shopping.”

“The period has been shown so many times in a way that starts to feel polished and perfect so it was really fun to get to play with the sense of how they get dressed when they leave the house versus how they get dressed when they stay in the house. I wanted to find flaws at different moments for each character and to chart the very different experiences they have after the death of this child.”

The outfits and interiors of each scene have been carefully considered
The outfits and interiors of each scene have been carefully considered

Fashion fans will be captivated by the Pinterest-worthy wardrobes of Céline and Alice; think fitted dresses in bright shades of aquamarine, mint and yellow, accessorised with cat-eye sunglasses, top-handle bags and ivory silk gloves. The glamour is also dialled up with perfectly coiffed beehives and set waves, lush taffeta gowns and chic two-piece suits.

“Jessica and I both really love characters and we love to get specific about what makes people tick and how they put themselves together,” says Travers of his ongoing collaboration with Chastain. 

Alice favours light colours and soft fabrics
Alice favours light colours and soft fabrics

"It was also wonderful to jump back into a fitting room with Anne because she brings so much to the table. She is truly such a joy to work with. She’s someone who has worn clothes so beautifully throughout her career so there's always a bit of pressure with her because you want to live up to the expectations. It was a real privilege.”

“Alice is a character who is interested in newer ideas, prints, and lighter-weight fabrics. She has a lot going on in her life. She had a career in a bigger city and came from a more flexible place. She is a dreamer, and we wanted this energy about her where she is lovely, dreamy, and a wonderful parent and wife."

Meanwhile Céline 'has the energy of a political wife'
Meanwhile Céline 'has the energy of a political wife'

“With Céline, it was the opposite where we looked at classics and perfectly starched linens. She has the energy of a political wife. We wanted her identity to be completely wrapped up in motherhood. This is the one thing that she pours all of herself into. So we wanted it to feel a little bit more maternal in a sense and a bit more staid and perfect. It was really fun to find that balance between the two women.”

As the story progresses from drama to suspense, you'll be gripped by the interplay between the magnetic Hathaway and Chastain as they navigate their complex roles of mother, friend, neighbour and protector. With love, rivalry, competition and fear explored against a tense soundtrack and lavish production design, audiences will be kept guessing until the very end. 

Mothers' Instinct is in cinemas across the UK and Ireland from 27 March. 

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