Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Cast: Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Kerry
Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, S. Epatha Merkerson,
Marc Blucas, Carla Gallo, Lisa Gay Hamilton, David Morse,
RunTime: 2 hrs 5 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes)
Official Website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/motherandchild/
Day: 6 May 2010
women's lives share a common core: they have all been profoundly
affected by adoption. Karen (Annette Bening) had a baby at
14, gave her up at birth, and has been haunted ever since
by the daughter she never knew. Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) grew
up as an adopted child; she's a bright and ambitious lawyer,
but a flinty loner in her personal life. Lucy (Kerry Washington)
is just embarking with her husband on the adoption odyssey,
looking for a baby to become their own.
"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." -Rajneesh
Rodrigo Garcia's deeply moving drama "Mother and Child" is ostensibly about that magical connection, but it doesn't take long before one realises that it is in fact so much more. At the centre of the film are three women- Karen (Annette Bening), Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) and Lucy (Kerry Washington)- whose physical connection to one another isn't exactly clear at first.
Karen is a dour upper middle-aged woman who continues to be haunted by the daughter she gave away for adoption after her pregnancy at the tender age of 14. Though she doesn't admit it, her regret for giving her child away is poisoning her relationships with those around her- a kind and caring co-worker (Jimmy Smits) interested in her, her Mexican housekeeper and the housekeeper's young daughter, and even her own mother who admits she's scared of Karen.
Elizabeth is an adopted child, a smart and clever lawyer and proud of her status as a fiercely independent woman. Though she would vehemently deny it, the absence of any knowledge or connection with her biological mother is poisoning the relationships she keeps- she begins a secret tryst with her boss (Samuel L. Jackson) and also the married next-door neighbour about to have a child of his own- and deep inside, she fears anything that spells commitment.
Lucy is a young wife who wants to have her own child but is unfortunately unable to conceive. So she and husband Joseph (David Ramsey) meet Sister Joanne (Cherry Jones) to adopt a child instead, despite obvious reservations from Joseph's parents and eventually Joseph himself. The mother whose child Lucy is going to adopt is a young teenager just approaching 20, and she demands to get to know Lucy and her background better before she gives her baby boy away.
Using the themes of motherhood and adoption, Garcia forges an emotional and spiritual connection among Karen, Elizabeth and Lucy. In Karen, we see the mother who never had the opportunity to nurture the fruit of her womb. In Elizabeth, we see the child who never had the opportunity to be nurtured by the mother who gave birth to her. And in Lucy, we see a woman yearning for the opportunity to become a mother, and in doing so to give life and to give love.
Even though Garcia doesn't bring their parallel stories together until the last half hour, it is easy to identify the deep bonds that unite each one of these women. Theirs is a connection of motherhood that many women out there will no doubt empathise profoundly with. With a deliberately measured pace, Garcia lets his audience develop their own connections with Karen, Elizabeth and Lucy. Through their disappointments, loneliness, frustrations and longings, Garcia invites us to ruminate vicariously about those same feelings that we experience within our own lives.
But if that all sounds too melodramatic for you, then rest assured that Garcia's dignified approach to the material, complete with the occasional sparkles of humour, doesn’t cheapen it one bit. Just like his previous ensemble dramas, "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her" and "Nine Lives", Garcia proves to be that rare breed of male filmmaker who is adept at telling authentic stories about complex and compelling female characters. Indeed, thanks to his elegant directorial style, the obligatory closure in "Mother and Child" that often accompanies such multi-plot narrative dramas isn't at all contrived and in fact wraps the stories up neatly in a bittersweet and immensely affecting way.
Garcia's film would not be as moving were it not for the beautiful performances of the ensemble cast. Watts shines through with her nuanced portrayal of her character's insecurities and discontent, so much so it's quite impossible not to feel sympathy for Elizabeth despite her obvious flaws. But it is Bening's heartfelt performance that is indeed the heart and soul of the film, inviting her audience to feel every bit of her character's sadness, loss, pain, happiness and eventual acceptance. With the women the main stars of the film, the men are relegated to supporting roles- though in their own ways, Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits bring much pathos to their respective characters.
As much as this drama is about mothers and daughters, it is also about families and relationships and the bonds that unite us. After all, every one of us has a unique identity as a child, and some of us also have the unique privilege of being a mother. Quite clearly timed for a Mother's Day release, this movie is an ode and a tribute to the special connection between mother and child, a bond that does not end with physical separation itself but one that endures and perseveres, that calls us back to the loving embrace of the one who gave life to us and wants continuously to give us love.
(Garcia’s film is a deeply moving and immensely affecting portrait of the everlasting bond between mother and child)
Review by Gabriel Chong