Umma is an American supernatural horror film released earlier this year. The meaning of the Korean word umma is ‘mother’. The movie stars Sandra Oh, who plays a single mother living with her daughter on a back-of-beyond farm – and who is being haunted by the ghost of her mother. Oh’s performance was widely praised by reviewers, with critics noting the power of the movie’s themes of generational guilt and trauma and others positioning it favorably as Gothic horror and an antidote to standard slasher fare. Umma left many viewers confused – especially the ending. If you found yourself thinking, “what the heck just happened?” when the final credits rolled, we’ve got your back. Here’s the plot and ending of the 2022 Korean movie Umma explained. And for those who haven’t seen the film yet: warning. There are major plot spoilers below!
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Umma Movie: Plot Summary
Let’s have a quick recap before embarking on an explanation of Umma’s ending. Amanda (Oh) has decided years before to leave behind her Korean past and her abusive mother and now lives with her daughter, Chris (Fivel Stweart), on an isolated farm, miles away from people and without any electricity or technology.
As the film progresses, we learn more about the terrible abuse that Amanda (then named Soo-Hyun) suffered at the hands of her mother, including torture and electrocution. However, when her mother’s ashes arrive at the farm, it becomes clear that Umma’s ‘work’ isn’t finished.
With its slow build-up of tension, frights, and twisting plot, Umma is not for the faint-hearted. The movie is an excellent primer for those interested in making their own horror film. Note how the use of lighting, sound effects, and music combine to enhance the fear factor. When putting together your own production, opt for royalty-free music if you’re on a budget; this will up the sinister levels while also avoiding potential legal issues regarding copyright.
Possessed by the Past
During the course of the movie, Chris realizes that her mom’s mental trauma hasn’t been caused by the electricity but by the fact that her mother abused her. Many viewers were confused by the scene where Chris discovers Amanda wearing a hanbok and performing a traditional Korean Jesa ritual – things that Umma would have wanted her daughter to do.
Amanda’s actions can be explained by the fact that, from the point in the movie where she buried her mother’s ashes, she became possessed by the spirit of Umma. This is why Amanda subsequently attacks her daughter for saying she wants to attend college.
Umma Movie Explained: How Amanda and Chris are Saved
Another part of the film that caused many audience members to scratch their heads was the scenes in which the pair are able to escape from Umma and her influence. This is how it happens. When Chris knocks the mask from Amanda’s face, the latter is able to lay eyes on her daughter, and the force of their mutual love shakes Umma’s grip.
From here, Amanda must confront her past trauma and meet Umma on a spiritual plane. A resolution occurs. The pair achieve reconciliation, and Amanda is finally able to depart, having found peace.
Umma Movie Ending Explained: What Happened After the Film’s Climax?
After the events of the finale, we see Amanda beginning to embrace her culture once more as she performs a traditional Korean funeral ritual alongside Chris. There is a certainty that Umma has now realized and accepted the wrong she did to her daughter. Amanda, too, has gained clarity, finally understanding that by pressuring her daughter to stay living on the farm, her controlling behavior was echoing that of her own mother. In the final scenes, we watch Amanda help Chris pack and head off to college, and the last frames are that of Umma’s tombstone, reminding us that all three generations have found peace.
Umma Movie: Unanswered Questions
Despite our best efforts, there are still several unanswered questions at the end of the movie. For example, what happened to Amanda’s husband? The fate and whereabouts of Chris’ dad are never revealed.
And while you’re pondering that one, what about – how the uncle found Amanda in the film. Given that his niece was totally off-grid, this needs some serious explaining.
And lastly, how on Earth did Danny know about Amanda’s phobia concerning electricity: specifically, how was he aware that being around it would only affect her mentally, not physically? Maybe we’ll have to watch the movie a few more times to figure out if these are genuine plot holes or if we’ve missed something important!
Umma Movie Trivia
And finally, some film facts. Shooting for the movie was scheduled to start in April 2020 in Vancouver but, like so much else, had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
The popular Korean legend of gumiho (or kumiho) is referenced several times during Umma. According to Korean and Chinese folklore, a gumiho is a spirit that, through an excess of pent-up energy, may grow malignant as the years go by. The legend could parallel the experiences of Umma herself, who was forced to waste her potential as a skilled dressmaker to take up the traditional role of a wife and mother.
What were your thoughts on the plot and ending of the Korean movie Umma? Do leave your comments below.
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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