Mother and Child is a dramatic new major film offering centered around three women: A 50-year-old woman, the daughter she lost to adoption 35 years ago when she was just 14, and a couple looking to adopt a child.
“We all have a mother whether we know her or not, whether it’s a good relationship or not. And I think for a lot of us that relationship defines how we approach a lot of our lives,” said Kerry Washington at the New York premier.
The cast is stellar, including such notables as Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Amy Brenneman, David Morse, Kerry Washington, Eileen Ryan, S. Epatha Merkerson...all of whom do superb, very believable acting jobs, despite some overdramatic script writing.
Reviews have been, for the most part, very positive which will mean that a great many people are likely to see this film - far greater than The Orphan, Juno and even Then She Found Me with Helen Hunt and Bette Midler.
ScreenDaily called it: "Delicate, thoughtful and quietly absorbing, Mother And Child is above all things a wonder of good acting and finely-calibrated small moments."
Variety: "an insightfully observed and exceptionally acted ensemble piece precisely about what the title suggests."
Compared to above mentioned horror, black comedy and transformed novels, Mother and Child played for me more like a docudrama. I could not help comparing it in my mind to Adopted: The Film I had just recently seen. In fact, Mother and Child adds a dimension absent from Adopted - the perspective of the original mother, showing only that of the adoptee, adoptive parents and perspective adoptive parents. Mother and Child explores what some refer to as the "triad" as lopsided as well all know that triangle to be.
The film is about more than the lives of three women, each coming from a different position regarding adoption. It is about the ripple effect that adoption has on their lives and their relationships with each of their mothers in particular and with all of their intimate interpersonal - and even work - relationships.
The most poignant relationship is that between Karen (Annette Bening) and her mother. Having lost her child to adoption at the tender age of 14, Karen tries to share her longings about her child to a silent, stoic mother who cannot deal with feeling her decision regarding the placement of her grandchild has "ruined" her - still unmarried at 50, care-taking - daughter's life.
Unspoken insights such as that this woman who is still grieving the loss of her child 35 years later is unhappy and bitter and pushes people away, while Elizabeth (naomi Watts) as the adoptee is likewise "messed up" besides being over-accomplished professionally are well done.
However, I found the characters to be caricatures or over-exaggerated stereotype composites of each archetype: The Birthmothers, The Adoptee, and The Expectant Mother considering adoption whom we also meet in the form of a young woman perhaps over-compensating for her fears by trying to be empowered and coming off instead defiant/aggressive young woman, who might need to be to go against the wishes of her mother.
The audience does get to witness a miraculous and fairly sudden change in Karen's demeanor, and Elizabeth. But will the public see the nuances beneath the surface of their behavior and what caused them to soften or will they simply be perceived as "nuts" or nasty, difficult be-atches, and if so what impact will that have on each of us?
The filmmaker chose to focus on the relationships between mothers and their children and perhaps it was this intentional that the fathers were either non-existent, chose not to be involved, or ignored as fathers, noticeable perhaps only for those of us who will see this film on deeper levels that the general audiences and feel for the missing half of a child's identity and heritage.
Since the film is likely to garner large audiences and might well become a "classic" - what did it intended to say adoption, what does it say about adoption, and what might general public audiences take from it as their impression of adoption?
While the film deserves kudos for not going to the Hallmark Movie ending with anyone realizing their adoptive parents are their "true", "real" parents, the screen-writer felt one point so important he had two different characters say it: "It's the time spent not the blood that makes a family." Yet the entire film seemed to be about showing us otherwise - or that it surely wasn't so without a great price. Will we be the only ones to see and hear that message?
Bring tissues and someone supportive!