Rating: 4 out of 5
If you’ve ever seen writer/director Rodrigo García’s work on television, particularly on In Treatment, you’d know exactly what to expect in his return to feature films. Much like his father, famed author Gabriel García Márquez, Rodrigo is adept at tackling the complexities of the human psyche in a manner that is both naturalistic and languid.
The story centres around three women, all dealing with the various perspectives of grief and vulnerability that come along with adoption and motherhood.
Karen (Annette Bening) is a middle-aged woman still grieving at being forced to give her child up for adoption when she got pregnant at the age of 14. Meanwhile, Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) is a successful attorney whose upbringing within an adopted family has left her emotionally unavailable and unable to form lasting attachments to anyone or anything.
Lastly, Lucy (Kerry Washington) is a married woman desperate to be a mother but unfortunately cannot conceive. This puts her at a crossroads with pregnant teenager, Ray (Shareeka Epps), who is set on giving her own baby up for adoption.
Lucy’s story is the most disconnected from the rest of the narrative but especially is crucial to providing balance as it juxtaposes why someone would be so eager to adopt despite the potential pitfalls (as displayed in the other two stories).
Garcia’s characters are all immensely flawed and not easily likeable, but charming the audience isn’t the point. They aren’t caricatures, easily predisposed to sentimental conventions. It’s what separates Mother and Child from the run of the mill Hallmark TV movie.
Karen is rude and stand-offish. She is the most cantankerous of the lot, blunt, hostile and broken by grief – much to the frustration of blossoming love interest Paco (Jimmy Smits).
Elizabeth is insular, fiercely independent and borderline sociopathic in her inability to form prolonged emotional connections with anyone. She is obviously capable of empathy but doesn’t make use of it, as displayed by her heartlessly seductive ways and quick-tempered nature.
Lucy is peppy and less socially awkward than her narrative counterparts, but is so single-minded in her pursuit of a child to call her own that she disregards the obvious trepidation of her husband and the warnings of her much wiser mother.
This is Bening’s and Watts’ best work in ages. They play their richly developed characters as genuinely as possible, without a trace of personal vanity.
Garcia’s writing is nothing short of phenomenal, as is his unobtrusive and nuanced direction. Everything feels organic, so even when you don’t agree with the misguided or despicable things the protagonists are doing, at least we get where they’re coming from.
The characters aren’t conveniently sympathetic but in letting us slowly understand them, the moments of emotional breakthrough feel that much more earned.
Aptly timed to release around Mother’s Day, this intersecting tale of mothers and their offspring (natural or not) is note-perfect and deftly authentic.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, aka inSing.com's Movie Lover, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for Metrowize Asia.
Hidzir is the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.