Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

11 July 2010

Mother and Child

I was a huge fan of Rodrigo García's 2005 film Nine Lives, so it was with quite a bit of anticipation that I sat down for a screening of his newest movie, Mother and Child. I got precisely what expected, and that is a very good thing. Mother and Child is contemplative and quiet, filled with fascinating characters, lots of nuanced relationships, and intelligent philosophy.

Mother and Child is three interwoven stories: a middle-aged woman (Annette Bening) who was forced to give her daughter up for adoption because she was only fourteen when she gave birth; the daughter herself (Naomi Watts), who is now a talented lawyer; and young woman who cannot have children but is trying to adopt. The stories connect only tangentially and plot elements while numerous, are never focal. The movie is, instead, always about something, even though you are not always sure where the plot per se is headed.

The acting is superb across the board. Bening is particularly good—her precision is terrific—but Watts and Washington are also excellent and both roles are incredibly challenging. The supporting cast (and this was true of Nine Lives, as well) is also really wonderful. Samuel L. Jackson, Cherry Jones, Jimmy Smits, Elpidia Carrillo, Shareeka Epps (love her), Marc Blucas, and LisaGay Hamilton round out the cast, with perhaps my favorite supporting turn coming from the always good S. Epatha Merkerson, who has a third-act monologue that she knocks out of the park.

I should be clear that Mother and Child, as should probably be evident from the title, is a meditation on motherhood and parenting. The film, therefore, does tend to be a little more about, well, breeding than I am usually into. (Lee Edelman would scold me.) But Mother and Child is so beautiful, and so much bigger than motherhood or heterosexuality that I forgave it. This might be because the film is also mostly about women and, therefore, the focus is on single motherhood, rather than some kind of nuclear heterosexual family.

At any rate, Mother and Child is definitely worth your time, particularly if you (like so many of my friends) have mommy issues. (That last sentence was said with a wink, y'all.)