Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Samuel L. Jackson are all outstanding in Rodrigo Garcia’s interweaving drama of women in search for motherhood. Three unconnected stories are told with sincerity and affection in modern day Los Angeles, each following its own course and meeting in a powerful fateful climax, the style of which is something producer Alejandro González Iñárittu (Amores Perros) is known for. Mother and Child is a tear-jerker and deals with strong independent women, determined to go it alone. At worst it’s melodramatic, moralising and a tad too long, on the other hand it’s a rare insight into genuine female emotions portrayed by a cast of first rate actors.
Adoption is the central theme in Mother and Child and it’s introduced immediately via Annette Bening’s character Karen. Tormented by having given up her daughter thirty years ago aged 14, she is now a cold, withdrawn and distrustful woman. Her resolve is further tested by caring for her dying mother and the romantic advances of a colleague Paco (Jimmy Smits). However, with the eventual passing of her mother she invites the patient and caring Paco into her life and together a healthy relationship ensues, one where Karen, tempts fate by contacting an adoption agency to track down her estranged daughter.
That daughter, Elizabeth (Watts), is now a successful lawyer with no attachments other than her predatory sexual encounters, one of which is her much older boss (Jackson). She falls pregnant, undergoes a change of heart and occupation and seeks the same adoption agency to find her unknown mother. If that weren’t enough Garcia gives us a third determined woman, the infertile Lucy (Kerry Washington) who also contacts the agency to adopt a child after being abandoned by her husband.
If it all sounds a little too contrived, it’s there to serve Garcia’s fateful redeeming collision in the final act. For the most part his direction of the actors keeps the episodic nature of the sories from stagnating constantly, jerking from one to another. He avoids this by allowing all the actors to breathe some real emotion into their roles without too much coaxing. The result is a natural and very affecting mood, which permeates gently into each story. And that gentleness in the pace of the film mimics, amongst other things, the very gentle masculine roles of both Jackson and Smits. Both men are wonderful reminders that strength can come from compassion and patience. And both are still charming and elegant even as they enter their maturity, something that female viewers will appreciate also.
Full marks for Annette Bening for really getting into the skin of this character and walking her into the light. If Hallmark gave prizes this would scoop them all.
Director: Rodrigo García
Writer: Rodrigo García
Stars: Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson
Runtime: 125 mins
Country: USA, Spain