45 user 14 critic

'night, Mother (1986)

PG-13 | | Drama | 29 January 1987 (Australia)
A mother and daughter spend a night together after the daughter reveals by the end of it she will kill herself.


Tom Moore


Marsha Norman (play), Marsha Norman (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Sissy Spacek ... Jessie Cates
Anne Bancroft ... Thelma Cates
Ed Berke Ed Berke ... Dawson Cates
Carol Robbins Carol Robbins ... Loretta Cates
Jennifer Roosendahl Jennifer Roosendahl ... Melodie Cates
Michael Kenworthy Michael Kenworthy ... Kenny Cates
Sari Walker Sari Walker ... Agnes Fletcher
Claire Malis Claire Malis ... Operator (voice)


What would you do if someone you loved sat down with you one night and calmly told you that they were going to end their life before morning? This is Thelma Cates' dilemma. Her daughter Jessie has had it. A middle-aged epileptic unable to drive or hold a job, with a failed marriage and a drug-addicted runaway son on the wrong side of the law, Jessie can find no reason to keep living. Adapted from the play by Marsha Norman, "'night, Mother" is the story of a parent's worst nightmare. How can Thelma convince her daughter that life is worth living if she can't feel her pain? How can she end her daughter's embrace of death before morning? Written by Mark Fleetwood <mfleetwo@mail.coin.missouri.edu>/Reid Taylor

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


It happened in 1983. It was a rare and remarkable theatrical experience. Controversial. Provocative. And shocking. Now, two Academy Award-winning actresses make the Pulitzer Prize-winning play the motion picture event of the year.




PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Sissy Spacek caught the play on Broadway and told her agent she'd like to star in it. See more »


Thelma: It's all that okra she eats. You can't eat okra willy nilly for two meals a day and expect to get away with it.
See more »

User Reviews

"Jesus was a suicide, if you ask me."
10 January 2001 | by rondineSee all my reviews

That is just one of the thought provoking lines from this movie. There are many. And while most of the reviewers praise the acting in this movie, and rightly so since it is a tour de force, I have to give praise to Marsha Norman who adapted her own Pulitzer Prize winning stage play for the screen.

When a movie is a "slice of life" such as this one, I unconsciously look for good and realistic dialog. There are just so many lines in this movie that ring true to real life conversations. There's a part where the Mom (Bancroft) tells Jessie (Spacek) to call her ex-husband up & try again, he might be ready and Jessie tells her that there's no point in calling him up because what's she gonna say, "nothing's changed, I'd just like to look at you if you don't mind?" In another scene Jessie compares life to a bus ride. She says it's hot, crowded & noisy and the only reason you don't get off is that your destination is 10 stops away. She says if she gets off now, or later, it's the same place when she steps down to it. In another part of the movie she says that she thought about sticking around if there was just something that she really liked, like rice pudding or cornflakes- but Jessie is a person robbed of any enthusiasm for life. So for her, staying around, especially for others, just doesn't make sense any more- she's had enough.

I really don't think Marsha was asking us to agree w/that point of view or to even condone it. I think she was just giving us some perspective- another point of view. And I have to admit, after having seen this many times, maybe Jessie made the right decision. As she also says in the movie, she is what *became* of her (Bancroft's) child. That she, Jessie, that might have made a difference to herself, didn't show up. Which is really food for thought for ANYone watching this movie- make a difference to yourself first and foremost. Despite the movie being about suicide, this is actually a life affirming movie if you look at it from that point of view.

The "acting" (I say that in parenthesis because it's so real it doesn't even seem like acting) from Spacek and Bancroft is absolutely first rate. I would recommend this movie on that score alone. Luckily, with the powerful and thought-provoking screenplay and the lovely music by Dave Grusin, there is much to recommend this heart wrenching tale of life and death.

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Release Date:

29 January 1987 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

'night, Mother See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$49,164, 14 September 1986

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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