Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
MOTHER AND CHILD REVIEW AND INTERVIEW
Directed by: Rodrigo Garcia
Running time: 126 min.
Release date: May 7, 2010
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
MPAA Rating: R
Mother and Child is from director-writer Rodrigo Garcia, whose feature films include Nine Lives, Fathers and Sons, Passengers, and Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her, and television series include hits such as Big Love (pilot ), In Treatment, and Six Feet Under. This film is a powerfully moving story of three women dealing with the power of the unbreakable bond between mother and child.
Three women (Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, and Kerry Washington) share a common core of this film as they all have been profoundly affected by adoption. Karen (Annette Bening) is an angry and rude middle-aged physical therapist working in a rehabilitation clinic for the elderly. She had a baby at the age of 14, gave her up at birth, and has been haunted by this event ever since. Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) grew up as an adopted child and as an adult is an anti-socially ambitious attorney who suffers from a self-imposed lonely life. Lucy (Kerry Washington) is an owner of an upscale bakery and a newly-wed suffering from problems getting pregnant.
Annette Bening's character Karen is complex in nature, yet has a side I found myself feeling sorry for. Karen lives with her elderly mother Nora (Eileen Ryan, Sean Penn's real-life mother). She relies on caregiver Sofia (Elpidia Carillo) to look after her mother. Karen keeps a journal and writes letters that are never mailed to her unknown absent daughter. What bothers Karen in this movie is how Nora, who often brings her little daughter Christi (Simone Lopez) to work, has a loving mother and daughter relationship. Annette Bening brilliantly displays the resentment in her performance. However, she leaves room in her role to express love for a mild-mannered man named Paco (Jimmy Smits) in her life.
Naomi Watts' character Elizabeth, is a legal eagle who is newly hired at a very prestigious law firm ran by Paul (Samuel L. Jackson). She impresses him with her sharp legal skills and her blunt straight-forward talking style. Her mannerisms and take charge attitude seduces her widow boss. This a chilling persona Naomi shows on screen that is nothing short of magnificent. While showing a distaste for family life and reluctance to engage conversations about her adopted parents, she soon finds warmth when it becomes possible for her to conceive.
Lucy is a challenging role, and Kerry Washington shows her range. Lucy and Joseph are newly-weds who are disappointed that they can't have children. Lucy and her sometimes nagging mother Ada (S. Epatha Merkerson) run a bakery. When she decides adoption is the route to take, Lucy and Joseph turn to Sister Joanne (Cherry Jones) at a private Catholic adoption agency. There they meet Ray (Shareeka Epps), an intelligent young pregnant woman who is interviewing potential parents of her unborn child. Ray is articulate and asks very demanding questions, and soon Lucy is the primary match. However, Joseph gets cold feet and admits he wants his own biological child that Lucy can't produce.
I was fortunate to interview these three terrific leading ladies and ask some questions of them.
I asked Annette Bening about her very bitter character. She replied, "I believe that, given what she'd been through, it affected her in the way that it did. Obviously, everybody would go through that experience in a specific way, so not everybody would be traumatized, in that particular way. I knew girls who went through similar experiences to Karen...going through it at 14 or 15 and being sent away and feeling so ashamed, and then going through child birth alone..." She continued by saying that the girls were told, "Okay now, we're going to just take the baby, and it's going to be fine. You can go back to school."
In regards to Naomi Watts's challenging performance, I questioned her about how she handles a busy career? She replied, "I feel torn between two worlds. I'm not reaching the same depths and heights that I used to reach in movies because I'm a parent of two small children who desperately need me. It's frustrating because I feel like I'm failing a bit on both ends...Every single day, I second guess myself as a mother." In my opinion, Naomi Watts gave one of her best performances in this film.
Kerry Washington was gracious as usual in my question and answer session. She goes on to say, "I'm not a mother, I have never tried to get pregnant. But I do know what is like to have a desire that is unfulfilled." Kerry's history gives her insight for her role as Lucy. Her mother Professor Valerie Washington herself tried for years to get pregnant and she finally became successful with the birth of Kerry on January 31, 1977.
The fact that her mother allowed Kerry to accompany her to take seats at her lectures and participated with questions, gave Kerry a keen academic sense. Kerry explained that, "I drew on my relationships with her (her mother) in many ways for this movie. I always felt like I was a special child. I wasn't spoiled in any particular way. But I never had the idea that I was an accident or that in having me it in any way took away from my mother's life or her experiences."
This emerging narrative has a stimulating plot and is driven by realistic dialogue by great actors. I am overjoyed to see women take center stage on such a subject matter. I am extremely impressed by these three leading ladies' performances and have high respect for the supporting cast members who share the screen.
FILM RATING (A)