With “Sex in the City 2” (complete with the rumored cat fighting among the stars during production) set to hit theaters this summer the “chick flick” genre is attempting to hold it’s own among the action, family oriented and comedies movies already out and set to be released in the next few months. However, “Mother and Child,” another movie also featuring a predominantly all female cast, is by no stretch of the imagination “just another chick flick,” but rather it is a compelling melodramatic character study that is simultaneously both heart wrenching and heart warming.
Veteran writer and director Rodrigo Garcia, is a pro at scripting and helming family centric motion pictures, having written and directed many episodes of critically acclaimed HBO dramas like “The Sopranos,” “Big Love” and “In Treatment” and movies like “Six Degrees.”
The subject of adoption is the sun that the characters and their stories revolve around in this emotionally turbulent movie. Adoption is already heavy on the general public’s mind with high profile celebrities like Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock recently expanding their families through the sometimes contentious legal process and of course the highly controversial case of the mother who returned her adopted child to Russia. This film adds even more insight into the matter.
Annette Bening (American Beauty) plays Karen, an emotionally broken bitter 50-year-old woman, who has never gotten over being forced to give up her daughter for adoption 36 years earlier. She has built metaphorical walls around her heart and life and is unable to form any meaningful relationships with anyone other than her elderly mother who constantly reminds her to “not get her hopes up” about anything resembling something positive or hopeful.
Eileen Ryan (“I Am Sam”) plays, Nora, the woman who was given up for adoption and has grown into what appears to be a self-assured, accomplished attorney. But we quickly come to realize that she is really just as emotionally damaged as her unknown biological mother. She uses her sexuality as coping mechanism and seduces any man she can, including her new boss (Samuel L. Jackson) in order to gain a semblance of control in her world where she feels uneasy and abandoned because of her parental past.
Kerry Washington (“Ray”) plays Lucy, a young wife, unable to get pregnant and desperate to adopt and achieve what she thinks is her lifelong dream of being a mother, at the same time silence the less than covert criticisms of her mother-in-law.
Not unlike the critically acclaimed 2004 movie “Crash” the plot lines of “Mother and Child” intertwine in an almost unnoticeable and never contrived way.
Incredibly sexy, painful and touching performances by each one of the lead actresses plunge you into the depths of their tempestuous character wells, making eyes water, and lips curl as their you ride the emotional mega-roller-coaster with them.
Screen veterans Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits, may have given this movie some of the best performances of their careers by simply reinforcing the stars of the film with superb low-key, realistic portrayals of the men who love and support the women. Also contributing a great performance to the supporting cast of characters is Law and Order’s S. Epatha Merkerson as Lucy’s protective but pull-no-punches mother Ada.
On the surface “Mother and Child” is an entertaining watch, if only for allowing the audience a chance to see the actors, both lead and supporting, in challenging roles that play against type and really display their acting abilities and skills.
But at the deeper, more emotional and cerebral core I believe Garcia was intentionally drilling to strike, his film is an incredibly woven cinematic work of art that demonstrates just how strong the bond that makes up the title of the film is, just in time for Mother’s Day.