Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Mother and Child
Mother and Child, written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, bears the fingerprints of executive producer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Garcia's use of interlocking storylines and a tone of high seriousness are reminiscent of Inarritu's Babel, though Garcia's domestic concerns feel much more personal and immediate. Karen (Annette Bening), is a physical therapist whose life revolves around an aging mother (Eileen Ryan) and a bitter regret over a daughter given up for adoption 35 years ago. Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), a successful attorney with a habit of changing cities, doesn't get too close to anyone until an affair with her boss (Samuel L. Jackson) upsets her emotionally regimented life. The third major character is Lucy (Kerry Washington), a young woman dealing with the difficulties of finding a child to adopt and having a husband who's not as excited about the prospect. Mother and Child isn't about suspense, it isn't difficult to see how the womens' lives will fit together. The acting is uniformly good (Bening and Washington especially) and the cast filled out with strong players in small roles. I especially liked S. Epatha Merkerson as Washington's no-nonsense mother.
What of the movie's message? Everyone is Mother and Child who is affected by adoption is damaged by it; Karen and Elizabeth are both closed-off, unhappy women and Lucy must endure the horror show of auditioning for young mothers and her husband's implicit accusation that she's damaged goods. Is isn't clear what we're to make of all this unhappiness, and though the film ends on a grace note there's a major plot thread left hanging that promises emotional trauma to come. Given the skill of the performers I wish I could say I liked Mother and Child better, but it ends up being a buffet for tragedy junkies.