Emma Thompson And Heidi Gardner Showed The Dark Side Of Motherhood On ‘SNL’

Emma Thompson’s SNL stint yielded a far amount of Mother’s Day content, including a bittersweet ode, alongside a visiting Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, to moms who speak in code. But why end there? The night’s first commercial started as a syrupy ode to mothers everywhere, who work hard but never let their stress and rage and disappointment show. That’s because, the sketch showed, their stress and rage and disappointment are bubbling barely below the surface.

The fake ad starred Heidi Gardner as a young mom to a toddler, visited by her own mom, an American-accented Emma Thompson. Gentle guitars and strings push us to near-tears, as Gardner tells Thompson she was the “perfect mother,” “always so calm and sweet with me.” “That’s because every moment was a joy,” Thompson says, leaning in, a warm smile on her face.

It’s then that we cut to the first of many brutal flashbacks, showing a younger Thompson holding up the baby Gardner as she screams deep into the night, asking her, in vain, “Why won’t you just f*cking sleep?”

From there it’s onto more despair: the baby Gardner getting paint everywhere; a disastrous childhood birthday party; surreptitiously reading (and brutally judging) her teen daughter’s diary. The present day Thompson never lets on that it’s all lies, and the ending keeps up the ruse, with the final text words wishing everyone a happy one.