The mother-child relationship is one of the most sacred things going and this film pays tribute to all forms of it. The good, the bad and the ugly. Good performances and a strong script does the relationship proud. Director Rodrigo Garcia (Passengers) has written three very different, strong and interesting female characters. The bottom line of the film is how important the job of motherhood is.
Three different stories about three very different women. At the age of fourteen Karen has sex with her boyfriend and ends up pregnant. Her mother, Nora (Eileen Ryan – The Assassination of Richard Nixon, All the King's Men) makes her give up the baby. Now in her early 50s, Karen (Annette Benning – Bugsy, American Beauty) is a single, bitter woman who lives with her sick mother, works as a physical therapist and thinks about her daughter every day.
Elizabeth (Naomi Watts – 21 Grams, Eastern Promises) is 37-years-old and the baby girl that Karen gave up. She is a very attractive and successful lawyer. After interviewing with a the boss (Samuel L. Jackson – Iron Man 2, Inglorious Basterds) of an L.A. law firm and getting the job, she sets about bedding him. Her boss is an older, African-American man named Paul. Paul's wife died and he has grown up children. Totally in control of her sexuality in a cold calculating way, she is also sleeping with the married man (Marc Blucas – The Jane Austen Book Club, The Alamo) next door. Her totally in-control life goes off the rails when she discovers that she is pregnant.
Lucy (Kerry Washington – Miracle at St. Anna, Lakeview Terrace) is married to Joseph (David Ramsey – The Death and Life of Bobby Z, Pay it Forward). They are having trouble having their own child, so they decide to adopt. The meet a 20-year-old college student who is pregnant and wants to give up her child for adoption. When they get closer to the due date Joseph backs out saying he wants his own child. Lucy decides she is going to do it on her own. Her world comes crashing down when Ray decides to keep the baby.
At times the script verges on a soap opera, but the stellar acting of Annette Benning and Naomi Watts overcome any of its hokiness. Not allowing vanity get in the way of a great performance Benning does not over milk a character that could have had us crying the whole time. With her deft touch and mad skills, she turns the bitter lady into a sympathetic woman and a character who ends up breaking our hearts.
Naomi Watts' character is fiercely independent almost in a crazy type of way. She had her tubes tied at 17 and refuses to put down roots of any type. Not exactly your warm and cuddly character, but somehow Watts makes you care for her. Once she finds out she is pregnant the change she undergoes is amazing. The sudden transformation of the character is plausible because of Watts.
For all these reasons and more, while it is not perfect, Mother and Child should not be dismissed as merely a chick flick. It is a drama that contains interesting fleshed out characters who are nuanced, flawed and complex. In other words, it is a film about real people who are at times unlikable and then alternately hold us enraptured in a dark theatre.