“The Mother of the Year”, or “Dzien Matki”, is a Polish thriller and action film available on Netflix, which stands out for its clear emphasis on characters and even reveals a hint of the plot in its own title. However, unlike common expectations of drama and relationship exploration, this film follows a non-standard action style. Below, learn about the plot, and the explained ending of the film.
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Plot of Mother of the Year
In an unnamed Polish town, a middle-aged woman waits in line at a liquor store, eyeing the jacket of a young man in front of her, which displays Polish nationalist symbols. The woman, named Nina, takes her turn, buys cans of beer without interest and walks home. However, she witnesses a group of men harassing two women on the street, including the young man in line at the store.
Deciding to intervene, Nina gets involved in a fight, although she is unable to completely defeat the gang of men, she manages to save the women, emerging from the melee with some minor injuries. Despite it being Mother’s Day, a date celebrated on the radio, Nina spends the night drinking alone and, the next day, returns to her routine job as a crane operator at a junkyard.
Over time, we discover that Nina keeps a constant eye on her son Maks, who doesn’t live with her, but with a couple he calls his parents. Before more details are revealed, teenage Maks is attacked by thugs and kidnapped in a van. While checking Maks’ social media profiles, Nina discovers troubling comments that reveal her son’s disappearance. Without hesitation, she abandons her usual life and leaves for Warsaw on a desperate mission to find her beloved son.
Why are Nina and Maks separated?
The reasons that keep Nina and Maks apart are gradually revealed throughout the plot. Nina Nowak, a former army major who served in NATO operations in Afghanistan, was mistakenly declared dead when she returned to her home country. The government even erected a tomb in her memory in the Warsaw cemetery, while Nina secretly lived in a small Polish town. Although she is Maks biological mother, Nina had to give him up when he was very young as she could not take care of him like any ordinary mother.
Maks was told as a child that his parents had passed away, and he accepted his adoptive parents as if they were his real parents. After Maks goes missing, Nina comes into contact with a police officer who was one of the few people who knew that she was alive. This policeman, named Igor, also served in the army in Afghanistan and maintained a camaraderie with Nina since those days. With Igor’s help, Nina starts an investigation and discovers crucial evidence, causing the police officer to flee the police station.
Maks’ phone is intentionally left behind by the kidnappers, as they left a voicemail on it for the police to hear. As Nina listens to the message, she realizes that Maks has been kidnapped by Dusan Dragan, a Serbian gangster. Dusan’s father, Spiridon Dragan, was killed by Nina, who was known as Kikimora, during her days as a spy. As Dusan believed that Nina was dead, he decided to take revenge by killing Maks. In the voicemail, Dusan makes it clear that he had no intention of making ransoms or dealings, only of punishing Maks and seeking revenge.
Later, when Nina successfully finds Maks and takes him to safety, it is revealed that the boy does not even recognize or know his biological mother. He had very little contact with Nina during his early years before he was adopted. While Nina reveals her true identity to him, she also tells him that her biological father i.e. her husband was killed by government authorities. The same authorities planned to kill Nina next, prompting her to put Maks up for adoption and to hide in a secret life ever since.
The film does not reveal the exact reason why the authorities acted in this way, but it is possible to deduce that Nina and her husband were also spies working for the army and government, making their existence a threat to the next government, which tried to eliminate them. After successfully murdering her husband, the authorities gave up looking for Nina, or the person responsible for her death must have mistakenly reported that she was dead. The truth of Nina being alive and doing everything to protect her son from the Serbian gangster remains unknown to most.
What is the hierarchy of the criminal underworld in the film?
As revealed in “The Mother of the Year”, there is a complex hierarchy at work in the Polish underworld, led by a man named Volto, an unpredictable and criminal psychopath. Recently, Volto had murdered his own father, a notorious gangster, and taken over the criminal empire. Although the reason behind Volto’s patricide is not mentioned, it is clear that he harbored an intense desire for revenge and hatred towards his father, as evidenced by the fact that he had decapitated his father’s body and kept the head in a pot in his desk.
Volto’s queer identity and lifestyle are believed to have been the reason for the animosity between father and son. Under Volto are two other gangsters: Tytus, in charge of crimes related to human trafficking, and Baton, in charge of crimes related to drugs. Polish police gathered extensive information about this criminal underworld and discovered a connection with a foreign country. A Russian diplomat, code name “Beauty Queen”, was involved in money laundering, and Volto was one of her most important clients.
Volto wanted to launder all the dirty money from his criminal activities by sending it to the diplomat, who took 30% of the amount as a fee and sent the rest back to Poland. She deposited that fee in small local banks and fed it into the Russian economy, leaving no trace. In the present, Serbian gangster Dusan Dragan, who was seeking revenge for his father’s death, paid Volto to kidnap Maks, and thus the Polish criminal underworld was also heavily involved in the kidnapping.
With Igor’s help, Nina discovers that it was Baton who sent his men to attack and kidnap Maks, and the teenager was taken to Tytus’ compound where he was being held. With her exceptional fighting skills and ability to single-handedly take down entire gangs, Nina breaks into the two henchmen’s hideouts and rescues her son. When Volto shows up at their hideout with his own men, Nina fights them off and defeats Volto, killing him or leaving him seriously injured. Upon realizing that Volto has been neutralized, the police invade his luxurious home and confiscate large amounts of money that he hid and laundered over the years.
Despite Nina’s best efforts to protect Maks, the teen misinterprets her and decides to go his own way, which creates the only dramatic element in “Mother of the Year.” However, this situation is resolved within minutes, when Maks is quickly kidnapped by the Russian diplomat’s son and taken into captivity. The woman then calls Nina and makes her demand: with all of Volto’s money confiscated by the police, the diplomat’s cash flow has been cut off. Now, she wants Nina to steal all of Volto’s money from the police station and hand it over in exchange for Maks.
Who really kidnapped Maks and why?
As Nina prepares to break into the police station and steal all of Volto’s money, willing to do anything to save her son, “Mother of the Year” reveals her plot’s biggest twist. Contrary to Nina’s and even Volto’s belief, it was not Dusan Dragan who kidnapped Maks. In fact, the real Dusan Dragan was dead and there was no evidence of his existence.
Surprisingly, Nina’s trusted police friend Igor was responsible for her son’s kidnapping. Igor, along with a small group of corrupt police, hired Volto to attack and arrest Maks, targeting the large amounts of money held by Volto in his home. Igor knew that by feeding Nina the false information that Dusan had kidnapped her son with Volto’s help, she would act on her own, essentially executing the plan that the police force itself had conceived.
The voicemail he showed Nina was actually a fake recording made by his corrupt associates. As expected, Nina took on the entire Underworld and even defeated Volto, allowing Igor and his corrupt team to break in and confiscate large amounts of money. However, this was not a legitimate confiscation, but rather theft, as Igor planned to run away with the money after giving a portion to his team.
Interestingly, the motive behind Igor’s elaborate plan was the desire to be a good father. In his personal life, he had gone through a messy divorce, and custody of his daughter Zosia rested with her mother. The arrangement for Zosia’s regular visits to Igor was not being fulfilled because he was not regularly paying child support. Facing financial difficulties, Igor needed more money to be able to be with his daughter.
The only encounter shown between Igor and Zosia also reflects this situation, with the teenager appearing distant from her father, possibly because he is unable to offer gifts or a prosperous lifestyle. So Igor decides to kidnap Maks, lie to Nina, make her fight Volto, and then steal the criminal’s money to solve his financial problems and try to be a better father to Zosia.
When Nina heads to steal the confiscated money, she realizes the full plan when she is arrested by Igor and his team, who are intent on killing her. However, Nina manages to fight back and emerge victorious, although Igor manages to escape. She retrieves the money and gives it to the Russian diplomat, who frees Maks and allows Nina and her son to leave unharmed.
While the diplomat may have other plans in mind, he defers to Maks’ decision to let them go, as the young man was impressed by Maks’ chess skills. However, Igor returns to attack the family in an act of desperation, without a concrete plan. Perhaps he intends to kidnap Maks again and extort money from the adoptive parents, but Nina manages to defeat him once more. Although she doesn’t kill him, he understands her desire to be with his daughter and leaves him to be arrested by the police.
By taking Maks to his foster family, the relationship between mother and son becomes extremely affectionate and loving. Maks continues to live with his adoptive parents, who he has come to know as his family throughout his life. However, he keeps in touch with Nina and occasionally visits her at her home. During one of these visits, an elderly woman arrives at Nina’s house, revealing herself as her mother. She warns Nina that all her enemies will now be after her, as her and her son’s existence have been made public.
While this scene may subtly hint at the possibility of a sequel in the future, it’s mostly there to emphasize mothers’ protective instincts. “A Mãe do Ano” ends with this scene, while an intermediate scene during the credits shows the chief of police showing Igor all the video evidence that incriminates him for the events that took place. With no more options for escape, Igor apparently gives up and helplessly asks permission to call his daughter and speak with her.
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