Mother Knows Best is a short film by Lincoln Chia centred around a widowed helicopter parent, Serene, and her son, Jackson. She tries to control every single aspect of her son’s job hunt. And when things seemed like it might not go his way, she barges into the interview room to yell at the HR manager.
The film’s idea was inspired by a chat Lincoln and his friends had about creating a Mother’s Day greeting card. They wanted this card to inspire parents to re-examine their ways of parenting.
We speak with Karen Tan Bee Lin, the actress who stole the show as Serene, on parenting and her preparation for the role.
Embodying a character she initially judged and hated
Karen respects that all parents have different parenting styles for various personal reasons. But she found Serene’s character to be something she struggled to accept from the start. This, however, also made the role all the more interesting to her.
“I judged Serene’s parenting style extremely negatively right from the start because I hated Serene as a parent. I wanted to slap her and wring her neck because, in reality, I am a really chill parent.”
The character became more real and less hateful to her when she stopped judging the character and started stepping into her shoes and giving her a relatable backstory instead.
“Lincoln Chia’s confidence in me really empowered me to suck up whatever insecurities and initial dislike I had towards Serene’s character, as my fear of letting him down and putting up a lacklustre performance empowered me to be brave and face Serene for what she is.”
Thus, Serene, the helicopter parent was born, a woman who was left with a gaping void in her soul due to the loss of a very important pillar in her life, her husband John. She tries to fill this void by obsessively focusing on her son, Jackson. We also witness her over-talking, over-moving and over-caring as a result of trying to overcompensate for this void she feels.
How She Handled Being Aggressive Towards Her Fellow Actors
We asked her if things ever got awkward with Ryan, who plays her Jackson, as her character displays quite a lot of aggression towards his. The actors only met once before having to dive into one of the key scenes of the film.
“As a first-time actor, Ryan displayed really high EQ and intelligence. The script called for some rather specific violent actions towards him at a pivotal moment, but I had no qualms when I saw that he was a trooper and team player.”
Ryan didn’t even bat an eyelid when she improvised a sudden violent movement towards him in the climactic end scene! She also commends him for knowing how to respect the silence between lines.
Karen coincidently happens to be neighbours with the other person her character harasses on the film, the HR Manager.
“We are next-door neighbours – so that means we hang out side by side, daily!” she quipped.
Nailing Her Major Meltdown Scene
Naturally, we had to find out more about the major meltdown scene and how much improvisation actually went into it.
“We actually adhered very closely to the final script. Almost word for word in fact. We were given leeway to improvise in terms of additional dialogue and freedom of movement for the climactic boardroom scene.
She attributes her performance to how well the script was written.
“It made it easier for me to tap into the emotions required for the pivotal scene. There was a clear arc in terms of heightening action and motivations for Serene.”
She was also very conscious to pace her emotions from start to end so they come across as a gradual and growing upheaval.