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Mother and Child

Mother and Child

Directed by: Rodrigo Garcia Cast: Annette Bening, Kerry Washington, Naomi Watts Running Time: 2 hrs Rating: R Release Date: May 21, 2010

read Allen's interview with director Rodrigo Garcia

PLOT: Middle-aged Karen (Bening) takes care of her sick mother, while mourning the disconnection from her daughter she put up for adoption thirty years ago. Lucy (Washington) wants to complete her perfect life with a child, but cannot bear a child of her own. Elizabeth (Watts) is a life-long orphan who has no interest in connecting with those around her, or those from her past.

WHO'S IT FOR?: This is certainly for mothers, but its also for those who appreciate their mamas too. Mother and Child might even inspire the same “Go call your mother” mentality one feels in their heart after experiencing something like Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream.

EXPECTATIONS: Going into this one, I did not know anything about the plot, or much about the writer/director. He had previously made a few films I recognized, but only by name.



Annette Bening as Karen: Of the three women, she has the most extreme interior change from A to B. Bening does a marvelous job playing all shades of this compelling character, and applies a great sadness to a woman who has confused herself about the definition and power of motherhood. Her performance is especially great when she is disgusted with herself for fumbling opportunities to flirt with a co-worker (played by Jimmy Smits). Score: 7

Kerry Washington as Lucy: She attempts to squash the insecurities that are weighing down her psyche by aiming for perfection. Of all three women, her journey is one that is a battle mostly against luck, or perhaps a higher being. Washington has some volcanic dramatic moments that set her as an equal to her more recognizable co-stars. Score: 7

Naomi Watts as Elizabeth: After being abandoned by her genetic mother, Elizabeth is a wholly independent woman with no interest in motherhood or any other human beings. At first her actions can be shocking to some, but they lend themselves to the selfish nature that makes up this possible but unique character. Watts controls her character Elizabeth like a statue that refuses to have any of its pieces chip off. Score: 7

TALKING: The beats between characters are fleshed out with authenticity in mind, as in real life people don’t always know what to say (which makes the courting of Karen even more interesting). Some lines are a tad cliché, or lend themselves to a corny imagination. Samuel L. Jackson’s character says, “Sometimes when you fall, you have to get up.” Though human beings are apt to resorting to reused lines in certain occasions, its dialogue like this that tests the phrase, “Sometimes a cliché says it best” (from Whatever Works). Score: 6

SIGHTS: Familiar male faces can be seen in the movie, as Jimmy Smits and Samuel L. Jackson make appearances as youthful older men who add a little heat to the ice-cube frigidness that isolates Karen and Elizabeth, respectively. They are not as well-written as the female characters, but still provide a balance and male perspective. Considering his openness with having his gray hair filmed, this one of Jackson's more vulnerable performances. Score: 5

SOUNDS: Music is used sparingly in a film that lets its characters add color to the mise en scene. When it is featured, at times the score can add a slightly melodramatic touch, with its delicate electric guitar lines. Score: 6


BEST SCENE: This is not your typical mother and child reunion. It happens when you least expect it, and it feels so good.

ENDING: Things don’t "crash" together in a way that one would entirely expect.

QUESTIONS: I did have some questions, but I saved them for my interview with the writer/director, Rodrigo Garcia. My questions for him and more will be available to read soon.

REWATCHABILITY: Not a film that can be re-watched immediately, but a second viewing around the corner doesn't sound like a bad idea.


The women of Mother and Child are never shown buying baby formula, and there is only one scene where the physical care taking of a baby is actually presented. This is a movie less about The Child than it is The Mother, and the necessary impact, positive or negative, a woman can have on her children. With young kids hardly shown on screen, this movie beautifully observes the lifelong role of motherhood, and how their commitment to our nurturing is impacting throughout our lives.

Mother and Child is a movie that expresses real emotions felt from real women, however “unusual” their circumstances. The three lead actresses are especially noteworthy in their portrayal of growing characters, and their heartbreaking moments of confronting the certain pains of being (or in some cases, not being) a mother are handled with great delicacy. They are supported by a script that balances them so well that it can reflect them off one another, while exploring further the connectivity that we shall always share with those who brought us into this world.


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