Mother and Child (USA, 125 min)
Written and directed by Rodrigo García.
Starring: Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits.
“Blood is important, but it’s the time spent together that really matters,” says Lucy (Kerry Washington) in one of the opening scenes of Mother and Child. Lucy’s statement is repeated again during the film, and the sentiment becomes the constant conflict throughout. Mother and Child follows three women in different states of motherhood and childhood. Karen (Annette Bening) is a physical therapist who lives with her aging mother. There’s a coldness between the two that stems from Karen’s youth: Karen gave birth at fourteen and her mother forced her to give the child up for adoption. The trauma of losing her child has eaten away at Karen throughout the years. She is now a distant and often difficult woman, and she is consumed with guilt for missing out on her daughter’s life. Karen frequently writes letters to her daughter, but cannot bring herself to send them for fear her daughter may be equally bitter.
The second narrative follows Elizabeth, played by Naomi Watts. At thirty-seven years old, Elizabeth is a successful lawyer and independent woman. Elizabeth was adopted and states that she had a poor relationship with her adoptive parents. She thus escapes family life by moving from place to place and remaining entirely career driven.
The third story is Lucy’s. Lucy and her husband, Joseph (David Ramsey), are in the process of adopting a child because Lucy is unable to bear one of her own. Despite some concerns from her mother (“Law & Order” star S. Epatha Merkerson), Lucy is obsessed that adopting a child will bring her happiness and begins negotiations for an adoption with a difficult young mother-to-be, played by Shareeka Epps (Half Nelson).
Mother and Child is at times almost too overbearing in its ability to emote despair and thus veers close to being too depressing for its own good. Nonetheless, the film’s ability to do so is a testament to the strengths of its actors and its storytelling. As a result, Mother and Child is often a poignant portrayal of family ties.