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(No longer in theaters)
Lukas Moodysson’s Mammoth creeps up on you and gets into your bloodstream. The thrust is similar to Babel, with its suggestion that the world has gotten smaller but the distances between humans more vast. Unlike Babel, though, it isn’t a crock. Its four plotlines feed off and intensify one another. Gael García Bernal plays Leo, a child-man who became absurdly wealthy designing online gaming. At the start, he flies off on a private plane from New York to Bangkok to make a business deal, leaving behind his wife, Ellen (Michelle Williams), an emergency-room surgeon, and his 8-year-old daughter, Jackie. Ellen barely sees Jackie: The girl is left in the care of a nanny, Gloria (Marife Necesito), who left her own two young sons in the Philippines to earn money to give them a better life. As those boys cry for their absent mother, Gloria (wracked by maternal guilt) functions as a loving surrogate mom to Jackie, while Ellen (also wracked by maternal guilt) labors to save the life of a boy stabbed by his own mother. Leo comes face to face with young Thai women forced into lives of prostitution. Too many films exploit the perils faced by children when the social contract is ruptured, but Mammoth earns its cruel, sensationalistic turns and then some. In the flawless cast, Williams is the most affecting, as a selfless woman doing so much right yet, like her world, profoundly out of balance.