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  • Rodrigo Garcia's 'Mother and Child' is one of the most moving poetic films I have seen of recent times. Garcia's previous films comprised of short vignettes and, on the surface, 'Mother and Child' appears that way. Though the connection between Elizabeth's story and Karen's story is apparent, the other subplots initially appear as though they have no link to Karen and Elizabeth.

    While there have been numerous movies of intertwined lives and stories, only few films have managed to have strong links and 'Mother and Child' is one of them and in addition the link between the stories is very significant and it's beautifully done. Moreover the twists and turns are superb. Rodrigo Garcia truly has created a treasure here. His eloquent writing breathes poetry as the story of his characters' lives unfold. Every single character, even the minor ones, are excellently fleshed out.

    The execution is just as wonderful. The art direction, cinematography, editing and lighting is first rate. The soundtrack is simply amazing.

    Each and every one of the actors does nothing short of fantastic and they deliver some of their finest performances. Annette Bening and Naomi Watts are spellbinding as the mother and daughter, two lost souls leading fractured lives until they gradually find purpose. Kerry Washington is superb as the wannabe mother desperate to have a child while being unaware of the challenges of motherhood. Jimmy Smits is terrific. Garcia's regulars, Elizabeth Peña, Elpidia Carillo and Amy Brenneman are very effective in brief roles and Cherry Jones is brilliant.

    'Mother and Child' offers the viewer what they don't know they were looking for in a film. While it is no surprise how many gems are overlooked by people because of lack of recognition, it's a shame that this precious little film falls under this category. I couldn't recommend it more and it's become among my favourites.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Looking initially like your typical women audience's movie, "Mother and child" can almost be described as innovative, albeit in a subtle and minimalism fashion.

    With a prologue of a teenage (barely, at 14) pregnancy that seems a rather favourite plot line these days, this movie follows three separate stories, of which the ultimate convergence of two can be detected almost immediately, while the third continues to remain at a distance until almost close to the end. But then right from the beginning, there is a shared theme: unwanted pregnancy and one of its common solutions – offer for adoption.

    In the first one, middle-aged Annette Bening is spinster Karen who is struggling with a strained relationship with her invalid mother Nora. This is compounded by the fact that the hired Latin domestic help Sofia (Elpidia Carrillo) seems to have taken over her place as the recipient of her mother's affection and trust. An added aggravation is that Sofia needs to bring to work her otherwise unattended little daughter, another rival for Nora's attention. At the work front (Karen is a physiotherapist), the arrival of a gentle, caring co-worker Paco (Jimmy Smits) stirs up in her emotional life ripples that at times turn stormy. As events unfold, the fact that Karen turns out to be the pregnant teenager in the prologue is of course not a surprise. I won't go into some of the key events in this plot line. Suffices to say that after some soul-searching and self-discovery, Karen goes to Sister Joanne (Cherry Jones, Molly Star in "Ocean's Twelve") who arranged the adoption over 30 years ago, seeking help to establish contact with a daughter that she has never seen.

    Naomi Watts is a mid-thirtyish, successful lawyer Elizabeth, stunningly beautiful, ruthlessly aggressive, moving from job to job (and town to town) every few years, unattached, valuing her independence above all else. She prefers to report to a man as women bosses "find her threatening". The latest such male boss is Paul (Samuel L. Jackson), recently bereaved, with grown children but still dashingly attractive. As a plot line, development of sexual relationship between the two is almost mandatory. Although with this man, Elizabeth seems to find the closest thing to love she has ever experienced, she is not going to give up her independence and customary sexual freedom with men. Right from her very first scene, the interview with Paul, it is made clear to the audience that Elizabeth is the daughter that Karen gave up for adoption over thirty years ago. The key development here is Elizabeth getting pregnant, which she thinks is impossible as she had this attended to in a cross-border medical visit (she was then 17, a minor). The miracle of carry another life in her sets Elizabeth's mind on looking for her biological mother. Yes, again. Sister Joanne comes into the picture.

    The third plot line develops around Lucy (Kerry Washington, best remember by many as Della Bea Robinson in "Ray") who is unable to give her husband Joseph (David Ramsey) a child. The couple decides on adoption and with the help of Sister Joanne (obviously) goes through a search that turns out to be tempestuously traumatic. As mentioned, the convergence of this third plot line with the others is not obvious and does not come about until close to the end, with a plot twist.

    While the above might appear to be a reasonably comprehensive synopsis, there is a lot of details that I have omitted, details of importance both to plot development and to the understanding of the protagonists. Similarly omitted are relatively minor characters such as the doctor that initially diagnosed Elizabeth's pregnancy (Amy Brenneman whom you should remember if you have seen "The Jane Austen Book Club") or the Karen's teenager lover now met in a chance re-encounter (David Morse). There are just too many for me to mention all here. One very remarkable thing is that each one of this large ensemble of characters perform the roles with such attention and dedication as if it were a lead role. The wonderful result is plain to be seen. The three leads are simply superb, all Oscar-worthy.
  • Rodrigo Garcia, the writer, director of "Mother And Child" is the son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez no less but his universe is solidly set on a reality that doesn't shy away from poetry. A poetry emerging from an open female heart. Wanting and longing for things we lost, for thing we let out of our lives. Annette Bening is superb. Superb! "She's 38 today" Annette tells her failing mother, talking about the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was merely 14. Naomi Watts is the long lost daughter and she is an updated version of the mother she never knew. Naomi Watts confirms, once more, her extraordinary range. The film works on every level and we live the changes the characters suffer with a palpitating heart of recognition. The entire cast is outstanding with Samuel L Jacksong giving a performance that is a revelation in itself. Gentle, strong, moving, powerful and funny. A film I highly recommend.
  • Caught this one at TIFF, and it was one of the best movies of the festival. Rodrigo Garcia directed "Nine Lives", which may be familiar to some audiences. That one was from 2005 and wove together a series of short vignettes. Garcia has a wonderful sensibility at portraying female characters in that one, and in "Mother & Child" he builds upon it even further as the movie centers around the theme of adoption and how it affects three adult women, played by Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, and Kerri Washington.

    I suppose this will get the "chick flick" label upon it's release, but for any lover of good dramas with characters you can sink your teeth into, that shouldn't matter, and besides, when did it become unfashionable for grown men to see movies with attractive female stars in them? There isn't a false moment or a scene that doesn't ring true, and I found myself so involved in the particularities of all the characters we meet that it no longer mattered to me what happened next, it was more interesting to get inside the shoes and take a walk inside the lives of these characters, so well fleshed out by all the stars here. So many big movies from America often feature adults behaving like children, and so it's ultimately refreshing and quite moving to follow the characters in "Mother & Child" who are going through very adult problems and acting like adults throughout, even if sometimes they fall or crack or are flawed.

    I think Bening and Watts, playing two very complicated and difficult women, should be nominated for Oscars. This movie takes material that could have been dumbed down and made into a TV movie of the week, but instead Rodrigo Garcia elevates the film by really listening to his characters. A wonderful movie, not just for women, but for all adults who like good movies, and for all film-goers who especially like "hyperlink" movies, that is, movies that deal with a multitude of characters while letting each of them take the wheel of the car. Terrific.
  • "No I would not give you false hope/ On this strange and mournful day/ But the mother and child reunion /Is only a motion away, oh, little darling of mine. /I can't for the life of me Remember a sadder day /I know they say let it be /But it just don't work out that way /And the course of a lifetime runs /Over and over again." Paul Simon

    Everything in the moving Mother and Child moves inexorably and lyrically toward a reunion, most notably between mother Karen (Annette Bening) and daughter Elizabeth (Naomi Watts). The other women in the movie are either moving toward birthing or adopting or just being mothers to children who are in the motion.

    Mother and Child is one of the best movies I have seen this year and like The Bad Seed and Secrets and Lies among the most powerful about adoption and the challenges of being a mother. At 14, Karen gave up Elizabeth for adoption. Elizabeth colors every moment of Karen's life until she must seek her out. So, too, Elizabeth's awareness of the mother she has never seen.

    Writer/director Rodrigo Garcia masterfully moves among mothers and mothers to be (Elizabeth becomes pregnant in the course of the film) to create a mosaic of longing and love, not one situation resolved in a typically Hollywood way, but just as the fates allow for real people. Woven into the dramatic tensions of a mother trying to reconnect with a child, a new mother surrendering to the difficulties of motherhood, and older mothers trying to support their challenged daughters, Garcia has a love affair between attorney Elizabeth and her boss, Paul ( an astonishingly underplaying Samuel l. Jackson) and an unlikely liaison between crusty Karen and sensitive co-worker Paco (an overweight, lovable Jimmy Smitts). While all these shenanigans might smack of the soap opera, the pace of the film is so languid as to allow the reality of the proceedings to grasp on to the imagination for total acceptance.

    The question of the causes and effects of adoption underpins the plot but with a proportion of pain that may be unreal. No matter, the results have an authentic feel, as does the superb acting.

    No illusion, this mother and child reunion is only a motion picture away.
  • Wow, where do I begin? Well, let me say that I went to the screening after hearing a friend rant and rave about how good it is. Being of the dude species I said to myself it's another chick-flick, but since homegirl couldn't stop talking about how good it was I decided to check it out anyway.

    I'm thrilled to say that I am beyond happy that I did. This movie is the BOMB if you appreciate excellent acting, writing, directing and casting. I could go on and on but that's the bottom line.

    Well, I do have one more thought. I just hope and pray that come Oscar time - because "Mother and Child" is being released now (Spring, 2010) - that it will somehow not be overlooked.

    If you like excellent movie making of the drama variety, go see this film!
  • Mother and Child was the best movie I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival — and I saw 25.

    Annette Bening is staggeringly brilliant in her role. She's a prickly and largely unappealing character, but the actress brings such humanity to the performance as a woman whose heart is slowly coming to life. Naomi Watts also brings nuance and humanity to a flawed and complex character. In a world where characters must always be "likeable," these performances feel like revelations.

    Direction is consistently sensitive and intelligent. The script deftly moves between three worlds, with intersections that are surprising and never feel forced.

    If Mother and Child doesn't garner wide distribution (and an Oscar nod for Ms. Bening) then this industry is deeply flawed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of "Mother and Child" at the Toronto International Film Festival last night. This film is outstanding in every way, and proves once again (after "Nine Lives" and "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her") that Rodrigo Garcia is a master of the complex story about intersecting lives and relationships. This story is about three women: Karen (Annette Bening), Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), the daughter whom she gave up for adoption, and Lucy (Kerry Washington), a woman wanting to adopt a child of her own. The film weaves a tapestry of truths about the sometimes heartbreaking nature of mother-child relationships, and about the almost unshakable power of that bond. It has many poignant moments and is garnished with subtle humour. There is not a single false moment in the film. The cast is outstanding, without exception, but Bening, Watts, and Washington each deliver Oscar-worthy performances, and Garcia deserves the highest recognition as both screenwriter and director. Bravo!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ***Alert: May allude to some scenes and themes that could contain what some might deem "spoilers."***

    As someone else said: "Wow, where do I start?" ... I LOVED this movie. I was not familiar with the director's previous work, but he is definitely on my radar now. The cast was incredible. What a fantastic mix of people. I mean, come on, Samuel L. Jackson, Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Elizabeth Peña, and Jimmy Smits. And those are just the "big" stars. The rest of the cast was equally outstanding. One standout performance was given by the beautiful Kerry Washington. So incredibly powerful.

    But, what really blew me away about this film was the authenticity of the many themes about life, love, family, children, parenthood, hope, loss and redemption that the director wove together so brilliantly. The screenplay resonated with me on so many levels. The dialogue rang true on so many levels. I'm sorry to say I don't know her name, but the actress who portrayed Washington's mother was incredible, too. The monologue she delivered during the scene where her daughter is struggling with new motherhood is golden. She delivered her lines with the authenticity of a woman who has lived a full and rich life. Just dynamite. I can't say more. Loved her!

    The funny story is that I had already watched this movie on cable alone, but re- ordered it through Netflix to see if my husband might be interested in watching it. I was worried he'd dismiss it as a "chick flick," (such a sexist term, BTW), but he became instantly absorbed in the story, and wound up loving it, too. He was haunted for days, remembering Watts' performance and the destiny of her character.

    Someone here gave the film a low rating because she didn't like the characters. She found the women, particularly, unlovable, and without redemption. But that's just one of the many themes that makes this film so outstanding. People are not perfect. We fall in love with each other, despite our shortcomings, thankfully. I thought the script, performances and direction were all very subtle in conveying these complex and multitextured human realities.

    Just beautiful.
  • Diane and I just saw this film in Fremantle and we were both totally absorbed by the strength, truth and integrity of it. The IMDb comments from viewers have noted the extraordinarily rich acting by all the people in this project; it is as if they were working at a higher level because they felt the power of the script and wanted to give the film the very best performance they could muster. It was similar to hearing our local chamber orchestra that seemed, at least to Diane and me, to rise above their normal excellent work and give tremendous support to a recognized Swiss violinist in concert with him. Other commentators have mentioned academy award strength in these performances and I can certainly accede to these opinions.

    We were impressed by the script which assumed that the audience could follow the pastiche lives of the four women involved in these all too real life situations. We thought that the writer who also directed this beautiful film understood and dealt sympathetically with the jigsaw of their lives as those lives unfolded. Don't read too carefully about the plot; I would suggest that you just take a seat and become absorbed in this tremendously sympathetic view of all that transpires on the screen. It is a gem not to be missed.
  • There have been a few movies about adoption, but probably none so profound as Rodrigo García's "Mother and Child". It depicts three separate stories, which despite their distinction share a link.

    Karen (Annette Bening) is an embittered nurse who many years earlier gave up her daughter for adoption. The daughter (Naomi Watts) is now grown up and calling herself Elizabeth, working in a law firm headed by the upstanding Paul (Samuel L. Jackson). Meanwhile, baker Lucy (Kerry Washington) and her husband Joseph (David Ramsey) are looking to adopt. The subplots are Karen's relationships with co-worker Paco (Jimmy Smits) and housekeeper Sofia (Elpidia Carrillo).

    The film moves along at just the right pace so that each relationship can accurately develop, and the characters come across as individuals with whom one can truly sympathize. In particular, Karen, through observing Sofia and her daughter, comes to understand the kind of life that she could have had. This is truly one that I recommend.

    Also starring David Morse, Tatyana Ali, Latanya Richardson and Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks).
  • Obviously orphanhood is a painful condition, as is lifelong separation from one's child. Adoption is a momentous undertaking, potentially beautiful for all concerned but fraught with risks of heartbreak. These are worthy but dangerous subjects for a movie; and despite good intentions and formidable actors, this one goes badly astray, though it's not without powerful moments. 'Mother and Child' is one of those manipulative stories about angst-ridden folks in LA whose lives turn out to be intertwined. It's not surprising to find it was produced by Alejandro González Iñárritu, though word from Cannes says his own latest film, 'Biutiful,' is straightforward and linear. Iñárritu himself directed the compellingly gritty and loosely connected multi-strand movie 'Amores Perros,' then veered into pretentious pseudo-complexity with more multiple-layered and polyglot storytelling in '21 Grams' and 'Babel.' The popularity among ambitious filmmakers of this genre can be partly traced to the success of the 2004 Paul Haggis film 'Crash ' (also set in a tormented and multi-ethnic, multi-racial Los Angeles), which won three Oscars, including Best Picture, pushing out the more worthy, but less successfully button-pushing 'Brokeback Mountain.'

    'Mother and Child' has a fine cast headed by Naomi Watts (who was in '21 Grams', and so is a veteran of orchestrated anomie), Annette Benning, and Samuel L. Jackson, and includes strong performances by Cherry Jones as a kindly nun, Kerry Washington as an eager young women bent on adoption, and Jimmy Smits as one of several implausibly saintly people. These stand by at the right moments, patiently awaiting their opportunity to make everything right again, for the moment when all the chess pieces fall into the right pattern and the game is over.

    It's hard to describe the movie in detail because its success as suspenseful entertainment hinges on the way its three or four main plots come together. If we knew ahead of time how and why the various narratives were going to mesh the film would seem flat and hopelessly manipulative -- which, in fact, it is, manipulative anyway. It's not so much flat as cloyingly sentimental and at the same time, in certain moments early on, decidedly creepy. What I can tell you is that a better title for the early stages of the movie might be Neurotic Women. One theme is estrangement, another, adoption. Motherhood seems alternatively a pathology, and a condition hopelessly longed for and never achieved. The character played by Annette Benning is cruel, abrupt, almost pathological. So is Naomi Watts, who is also coldly manipulative. Some of the things that Naomi Watts' character does early on seem downright evil. Annette Bennings' character is so hostile and unpredictable it's hard to imagine her holding down a steady job; but plausibility is not the long suit of a screenplay bent on moving its plots and characters in neat patterns. These two people played by Benning and Watts, who represent a lonely mother and a lost child, are meant to hold our attention, but in order to justify our respect or interest they have to undergo sudden changes the scenes can't justify.

    Jackson is an attorney who heads his own very successful law firm. In his first scene he is made to hire Watts, whom he declares impressive. The only trouble is that her record also clearly shows she is unstable, uncommitted, and isolated. The head of a viable firm would think twice before hiring such a person. Then in the days that follow she rapidly seduces him. To analyze the details would not only give away the surprises, but is also embarrassing, because so much is fudged to make the pieces fit together; and besides unconvincing events, there are dropped stitches as time goes on. Things get more obvious and ham-handed when a blind girl appears on the roof of Watts' latest apartment building (she is constantly on the move) for the sole purpose of having Meaningful Conversations. And yet despite all the nonsense, some of the scenes are heartrending, especially one involving Kerry Washington. When Benning turns sweet and lovely, her scenes seem pasted in from another picture. It would have been nice to watch her again in the lightweight, but utterly charming 'Being Julia,' one of her recent triumphs. She is always fine, but she does manic better than depressive. All these fine actors deserved better material. They're good, but they can't make this movie plausible or hide the writer-director's heavy, obtrusive hand.
  • claudio_carvalho12 March 2012
    In Los Angeles, the therapist Karen (Annette Bening) is a bitter woman that nurses her terminal mother Nora with the support of her maid Tracy (Carla Gallo) that has a little daughter. Karen misses her unknown daughter that she gave for adoption thirty-seven years ago when she was fourteen years old. Her new colleague Paco (Jimmy Smits), who is a widower, is a gentle man and courts the unpleasant Karen.

    The bakery owner Lucy (Kerry Washington) wishes desperately to adopt a child since she can not have a baby but her husband Joseph (David Ramsey) is not supportive to the idea.

    The efficient lawyer Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), who is Karen's daughter, is an independent and promiscuous woman that does not want to have a baby and has tubal ligation. When she joins the law firm of Paul (Samuel Jackson), she has a love affair with him and becomes his mistress.

    When Nora passes away, she feels a great need to know Elizabeth. She marries Paco and his daughter Maria, who is a religious woman, convinces her to seek out Elizabeth. When Lucy meets the single mother Ray (Shareeka Epps), who is a demanding woman, Joseph leaves her since he does not want to raise a foster child. When Elizabeth finds that she is pregnant, she quits her job in Paul's firm and works as secretary in a small company. Their lives will be entwined in very dramatic situations.

    "Mother and Child" is a powerful drama about different views and feelings about motherhood. The therapist Karen has never overcome the loss of her daughter for adoption. The infertile baker Lucy wants to be a mother and her desire costs her marriage. The lawyer Elizabeth is traumatized by her childhood and is an independent woman that does not want to have a baby and ironically gets pregnant. In the end, there is redemption with the second chance for Karen. My vote is seven.

    Title (Brazil): "Destinos Ligados" ("Connected Destinies")
  • This movie was a complete surprise to me, I really wasn't sure what to expect when picking this film to view, but with it's all-star cast line-up it looked on the surface like it could be a winner and a winner it was. The storyline is detailed and compelling, 5 minutes into this movie you will be hooked. There are several different elements and segments in this movie that will draw the viewer into the story and make this life journey story a meaningful and appreciated view. For the record, if you read any of my reviews you'll find I do not get into what the movie or story line is about, what I try to relay to you the reader is my opinion of a movie and whether it is worth your time, effort, and money to view, in my humble opinion "Mother and child" is definitely a keeper.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The critical hosannas being hurled at this film are completely mystifying to me. I have not seen such a disingenuous conglomeration of bad ideas thrown together like ingredients for a hack melodrama get this much critical praise, since, I don't know, since A Beautiful Mind or Crash.

    Maybe it's because I like all the actors so much. It was disappointing to see people with such distinctive screen presences as Samuel L Jackson, Naomi Watts and Shareeka Epps get used in a story that wouldn't have passed muster as a cheap Lifetime Channel movie.

    Watching Annette Bening treating Jimmy Smits rudely or having Naomi Watts introduce Sam Jackson to her nosy neighbor as her father were scenes that should have sparkled, but here they were flat as yesterday's ginger ale.

    Nothing rang true for me in this story from the desperation of the young black couple to adopt a baby, any baby, to the aggressive career girl lawyer to Annette Bening's Latina maid; this doesn't mean there are not people in these predicaments in real life, because there are. I just didn't believe them here.

    A good example was Shareeka Epps, she was so great in Half-Nelson as the smart girl who saw through her drug addicted teachers faults to his positive qualities, but here as an obnoxious teen giving the third degree to hopeful parents who want to adopt a baby she is thinking of giving up, I mean this is a dumb idea for a character. It's a self-conscious and false attempt to add a layer to what is essentially a bland stock character, it's right out of screen writing 101 and just as predictable.

    But it was the way all the characters spoke with the same type of ironic-hip diction of a bad cable TV series that was truly annoying. With my eyes closed, I could not tell who was talking to whom, they all had the same vocabulary whether they were a Catholic nun or a high priced lawyer. How realistic is that? It isn't, except in Bad TV Land!

    I swear, this glacially paced movie put me into a mouth-breathing coma. A double shot of Starbucks espresso was not enough to pull me out of my torpor after I sleepwalked out of the theater into the warm night air. Seriously, I needed a defibrillator to zap me back to the living world when this film was over.

    But what really ticked me off was that this film did not have the decency to just be bad and misguided, but it had to pretend to be about "SOMETHING" in capital letters, when it is really nothing more than an ordinary dull soap opera dressed up as a motion picture.

    I kept thinking to myself, "Douglas Sirk would have known what to do with this script." What a shame he's no longer with us. Gosh this film was a waste of time.
  • This film is another triumph from Rodrigo García and Alejandro González Iñárritu - two of the most gifted artists in film today. Written and directed by Rodrigo García (with his partner in the guiding role of producer) MOTHER AND CHILD is another means of telling stories that intertwines many lives that are united in fascinating and meaningful, purposeful ways. The film is a discourse on motherhood in all its parameters: rarely has this familiar subject been treated with deeper understanding and probing intelligence and emotion.

    Opening in black and white we see a young 14 year old girl having what seems to be her first physical encounter with a boy. The film then jumps forward 37 years and gradually each of the characters is introduced. Karen (Annette Bening in a stunning performance) is an acerbic, lonely physical therapist caring for her aged mother (with the help of housekeeper Sofia (Elpidia Carrillo) whose young daughter Cristi (Simone Lopez) accompanies her loving mother when Cristi is not in school - an aggravating nuisance to Karen who is rigidly attempting to keep her life in order. Karen, we learn, has a 37 year old daughter Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) she gave up for adoption but who haunts her every moment sad and guilt ridden moment as she cares for her dying mother. Elizabeth (who has never investigated her birth mother but instead has lived a life of being alone and driven to be a successful lawyer) is interviewed by a powerful attorney Paul (Samuel L. Jackson) for an important position in a major law firm in Los Angeles. Though Elizabeth's heart seems frozen she knows how to get what she wants and manages to seduce Paul, while carrying on an affair with her next door neighbor Steven (Marc Blucas) who is married to a very pregnant Tracy (Carla Gallo). Despite the fact that Elizabeth had an elective tubal ligation at age 17 she becomes pregnant with Paul's child, decides to keep the child but to move away from Paul, and finds a job elsewhere awaiting the birth of her baby, endangered by a diagnosis of placenta previa.

    At work Karen meets widower Paco (Jimmy Smits) and after multiple insulting encounters with him begins to date Paco, who in turn helps Karen unravel her life long agony for giving up her child Elizabeth for adoption. They meet with Sister Joanne (Cherry Jones) who runs the adoption agency and Karen places a letter in the file of the girl she has never met. By coincidence Elizabeth also places a letter in the file as she grows fond of being pregnant. And in another important sidebar episode a young barren couple Lucy (Kerry Washington) and Joseph (David Ramsey) decide to adopt a child: Lucy runs a bakery with her mother Ada (S. Epatha Merkerson, another brilliant though subdued role for this gifted actress) and Joseph's parents are against the idea of Joseph not finding someone who can produce HIS child. The couple meets with Sister Joanne who in turn introduces a feisty young pregnant Leticia (Lisa Gay Hamilton) who reluctantly agrees under her own terms that Lucy and Joseph can adopt her imminent fetus. Things happen and each of these characters changes, no plan turns out as predicted, yet everything comes together in the strangest of ways.

    The movie successfully examines the mother/child relationship with five stories that are intimately connected - but we don't know until the end just how these connections play out. The entire cast - which also includes the gifts of Elizabeth Peña, David Morse, Shareeka Epps, Amy Brenneman, Tatyana Ali , Eileen Ryan, and more - is committed and credible. Every aspect of this film is brilliantly conceived and executed. It deserves the highest awards. Highly Recommended.

    Grady Harp
  • Mother and Child (2009)

    A drama filled with crosscurrents and heavy emotional stuff, yet told in such a normal and realistic way we come to believe it. And like it. Especially the acting, with Naomi Watts and Annette Bening leading two generations (and defining the title).

    More than just exploring what a woman and her daughter (or her mother) need from one another (and give), this is about that first stage of becoming a mother—and deciding whether to keep the baby at all. So you see, it gets huge. And then comes the long term issue of adoption and finding, with luck, your adopted mother. The anger and released fears and the decades of doubts all flip and resolve, and this is all here.

    What helps all along is the imperfect characters. In fact, Watts (as the conniving, independent daughter) and Bening (as the bitter, lonely mother) are really unlikable. At first. What keeps you going is the tenderness of two of the men, played by Jimmy Smits and Samuel L. Jackson, both with wonderful subtlety. While it never becomes "father and child" at all, these men really help nurture the mother and daughter relationships.

    So who is this Columbian director and writer who pulled this together so well? He's had a mixed career writing and producing, and directing, including some "Six Feet Under" episodes and other spot jobs. He seems to lean toward interpersonal dramas, and has a knack for playing down sentiment while tuning into emotional impact (which is very different). It works.

    Some people might find the plot too controlled, too contrived (almost but not quite to the point of predictability). Others might find the restraint all a bit too realistic, so that you kind of see too much real life and not enough theater. For me it walked a great line between all these poles. Good stuff!
  • ajrg-17-3816392 April 2011
    3/10
    No
    Warning: Spoilers
    I thought at the outset this was going to be a good movie. As a mother with two children of my own, one child from India and an open adoption of three children from Mexico I found this movie contrived and unbelievable so they lost me early on. I thought the men who loved these unpleasant women were a bit hard to swallow, the pleasant husband who suddenly wanted his own kid was equally unbelievable. Not that men could not like difficult woman but there really has to be something that compensates for this, which renders the woman appealing in some way, if only in that they desire S& M. Men who like their wives who have good wives and no personality themselves do not leave them because they are wanting a child of their own, suddenly developing a back bone.

    The movie turned into a life time channel movie and in the end I just did not care.

    Women do not die in childbirth, their kids do not live down the street from Grandma who has suddenly become nice, hysterical mothers do not become good mothers. One or two conceits are OK but short of some good performances don't waste your time. I don't know how the writer managed to get his script through without editing.
  • "Mother and Child" is a new film that follows one of the biggest cinematic trends in the last decade. Starting with "Crash" in 2006 and continuing with "Babel" the next year, Hollywood has been smitten by films featuring stories of seemingly unrelated individuals, whose lives become entangled in mysterious and life-changing ways. After Paul Haggis' "Crash" won the Best Picture Oscar, a slew of other thematically similar films emerged, including "21 Grams," "The Burning Plain" and now "Mother and Child." The film been shown at both the Toronto and Sundance Film Festivals and will have a limited release starting on May 7.

    "Mother And Child" tells the overlapping stories of three women impacted by adoption. Annette Benning plays Karen, a bitter nursing home worker who gave her daughter up for adoption as a teenager. Naomi Watt's Elizabeth is a driven and commitment -phobic lawyer who was adopted at birth, never knowing who her biological parents were. Kerry Washington and David Ramsey portray a newlywed couple desperate to adopt, after learning of their inability to have a child. Through so-called plot twists, these miserable people's lives are intertwined through fate and adoption papers.

    If any praise is to be given to the this film, written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia and produced by "Babel" filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu, it is to be handed to the actors. Benning digs into her role with an Oscar glint in her eye. She is both fragile and fiercely independent; creating a character that is neither likable nor pleasant, at least until the castle walls come down in act three. Naomi Watts, who is proving herself to be Generation Y's Meryl Streep, gives a strong and uncompromising performance as the guarded, man-eating Elizabeth. Kerry Washington's emotional, if not histrionic, take on the mother-to-be is another standout in this starry ensemble cast. Jimmy Smits, Cherry Jones, David Morse, and S. Epatha Merkersn give fine supporting performances as well. Although the biggest surprise came from Samuel L. Jackson, whose turn as a widowed lawyer almost makes you forget "Snakes on a Plane." All of these roles are ones that scream Oscar bait and, at times, their scenes come across like the compilation clip of Best Actor nominees. The only way to ensure a win would be the addition of a handicapped character – oh wait, there's one of those too!

    The area where the film falls flat is its script. Many complained that "Crash" was manipulative and forced, but I was able to overlook that, given the film's fable-like tone. Whatever inkling of forced coincidence was in "Crash" has been magnified a hundred fold in "Mother and Child." What should feel organic comes across as utterly manipulative. And soon, the protagonists' lives start to feel more like a big chess game being played by the screenwriter, with the characters becoming more pawns than three-dimensional people. The movie was almost universally predictable, step-by-step. Anyone with a few solid hours of melodrama under their belt can figure out many of the film's twists a good half hour before they happen.

    The film falls into cliché-ridden traps far to many times, too. A pivotal line about family being made up of memories rather than bloodlines appears in the middle of the film. Quoted in a somber, self-reflective tone, you can almost see it on the film's posters as it's being said. As if the on-the-nose message wasn't obvious enough, it gets repeated, almost word- for-word by another character not more than 20 minutes later. It quickly becomes this film's "with great power comes great responsibility." Although, the moment the film fully jumped the shark was the introduction of a wise beyond her years teenager, who just happens to be blind. The sagely adolescent bit is tired enough, but the insightful blind person shtick has been overused since "The Odyssey." Shouldn't we move on to exploiting other disabilities?

    "Mother and Child" sets out to be a moving weepy whose message is both inspiring and thought-provoking. It would not surprise me if many film-goers are sucked into its overblown vortex. But for every viewer who finds it authentic and riveting, there will be others who feel bored and utterly manipulated.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    'Mother and Child' is one of those melodramas that manage to rise above the usual didactic characters and plot contrivances, typical of the genre.  Sensitively written by Rodrigo Garcia (son of the famous novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez), it focuses on three separate characters and plot lines, which finally converge, establishing the connection between each one.

    The principal characters of the screenplay fit into Screen writing Guru Michael Hague's category of Primary Characters which include Hero, Nemesis, Reflection and Romance. The hero, who is the primary character, has an outer motivation that drives the plot forward. In the case of 'Mother and Child', that would be Karen, smartly played by Annette Bening. Her outer motivation is to find the daughter she gave up for adoption as a 14 year old. Karen is a bit darker and more complex than your usual melodramatic heroine. Due to her bitterness over the loss of her daughter, as well as being forced to take care of a dying mother, Karen has become hyper-critical toward others, especially men. Some internet posters had trouble believing Paco (Jimmy Smits), the co-worker Karen ends up marrying, would tolerate her petulant behavior; and yes, he's a bit of a caricature of the understanding lover--but they do have a few powerful scenes together. One such scene that comes to mind is when Paco leaves the tomatoes tacked up on the wall, and Karen, on one of her 'bad hair days', rips into him most inappropriately. Another good scene underscores another one of Karen's flaws (jealously)--this is when Karen grabs the necklace from her housekeeper's daughter, denying that her (now deceased) mother would have given it to the little girl as a gift.

    The nemesis is the character who most stands in the way of the hero in achieving her outer motivation. This is Elizabeth, brilliantly played by Naomi Watts. The Elizabeth character is what enables 'Mother and Child' to rise above the clichés of the typical soaper. Elizabeth stymies Karen from achieving her outer motivation of accomplishing the mother-daughter reunion. What's interesting is that, as it turns out, this is more a matter of fate than Elizabeth's conscious decision (although some of Elizabeth's choices, lead to a tragic conclusion).

    Elizabeth is a wonderfully complex character in that we root for and against her at the same time. She's a high-powered, successful lawyer, who goes through life with a heart of steel, utilizing her sexuality to get what she wants. She has no qualms about bedding her boss, nice guy Paul (Samuel Jackson) and then seducing a young next door neighbor who appears to be happily married. Elizabeth's venomous demeanor can be directed at both men and women. There's that scene where she places her underwear in her next door neighbor's drawer (I felt a bit cheated that the director chose not allow us to see the wife's reaction). And there's also that amazingly powerful scene where Elizabeth uses the 'C' word, chastising the doctor who makes the mistake of assuming that she wants an abortion. Once Elizabeth becomes pregnant, she becomes more human. She gives of herself by befriending a blind girl but once again her willfulness does her in—she insists on seeing her baby when it's born, instead of opting for a C-section or anesthesia. Without giving the plot away, her decision results in tragic consequences.

    Hague also uses the term "Reflection" as another category involving the primary characters. In reflection, we have a character that supports the hero's outer motivation. Here Lucy (Kerry Washington) ultimately fulfills Karen's motivation by adopting Elizabeth's daughter. Before that happens, there's some rather intense interplay between Lucy and the birth mother, Ray (Shareeka Epps), who ends up changing her mind about giving up her newborn after her tough as nails mother influences her in that direction.

    Finally, the romance character is the sexual or romantic object of hero's outer motivation. I understand that Mr. Garica (who also directed), needed to keep the story moving but the relationship between Karen and her romantic partner, Paco, seemed a bit rushed. You can practically blink your eyes, and suddenly Karen and Paul are married. Samuel Jackson's character, Paul, as Elizabeth's short-term partner, is interesting as he comes off as completely passive, due to having lost his wife a few years earlier. This passivity is illustrated when Elizabeth gets on top of him when they make love and she orders him to passively enjoy himself, as she basically is 'in charge'. Lucy's husband, who we see briefly in the first half of the film, has one of the best moments when he surprises us by walking out on his shattered wife.

    There are other good characters in 'Mother and Child', too numerous to mention here. Despite the rather predictable 'happy ending' and the over the top coincidence that Karen and Lucy have been in close proximity to one another for quite some time, 'Mother and Child' is an impressive achievement. What I like about this film is that there are so many twists and turns that are constantly popping up. The characters might be a little over the top, but the emotions they display, are truly heartfelt and true to life.
  • There's nothing cheap or easy in this film. We become intimately involved with the characters to the point that, at least for me, every scene evokes heart-felt emotion and yes, tears. Everything works here, the script, direction, production, and of course the performances. Seldom have a seen such a gifted ensemble bring to life such an outstanding story. It shows real life, messy, imprecise, unpredictable, lived by real people, people I could identify with, searching for meaning, truth, trying to hold on to fleeting moments of happiness and finding it in unexpected places. There are no heroes or villains, just real people, trying to make the best of the cards they were dealt. A true gem.
  • This movie moved me. I'm a guy but this movie and the end just make me cry.

    I decided to watch this movie, because of HBO's director Rodrigo Garcia. And i'm thankful i did. It is so emotional i just wish HBO would make a drama series like this.

    Naomi Watts is one of the greatest actresses on earth i think. She is still amazing but to bad that Sandra Bullock wins an Oscar where Watts still waits for one.

    I also realize Annette Benning is an outstanding actress. I first watched her in American Beauty.

    The scenario is great, too. Garcia should make more movies that quality. If you like drama movies (especially if you're a mom) you should watch this. Please give this a nomination academy! 8.5/10
  • greenlass27 March 2011
    I'm without words. There are so many reviews already that articulate so much better than I could. This film is sublime.

    I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it was not made in the United States. The subtlety, the maturity, the pace, the supreme performances, the delicacy of the musical score....

    How did I miss this when it came out? Where were the awards for everyone connected with it? I'm so glad I finally saw it. It's a film every serious film-goer should see.

    This film will simmer in me for a long long time. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
  • I almost passed this film by, thinking it would be way to treacly and sentimental for my tastes at the moment. But I was surprised. This film starts out on low notes--Karen, a prickly, unlikable therapist lives with her dying mother, still brooding over a child she gave up for adoption when she was 14 years old. Kerry Washington & her husband have decided to adopt, at least she has, and get involved with a young, unmarried girl who's giving them her child. And than there is Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), an independent, direct, hard-edged personality who is totally unpredictable. She gets involved with her boss, Sam Jackson....

    What Garcia is able to do with this story is amazing. He brings the characters, all beautifully developed, from the dark to the light, without it seeming forced or contrived. Well, maybe a bit contrived with Karen's character but nothing egregious. All the actresses were fantastic, and especially Naomi Watts -- this is the kind of role she is meant for, somewhat quirky, abrasive, edgy. Frequently she is miscast, but for this film, she was perfect.

    There are several unexpected twists in this film that I won't give away but I cast it in the genre of adult fairy tale -- like In America, August Rush, even Birth (though there's nothing supernatural in the film--serendipity, instead).

    I was quite touched by the film and recommend it with enthusiasm.
  • Yes, one of the best and thought provoking movies I have seen this year and I will have to watch it again to pick up on some of the bits I missed. I watched it on the plane! I have now watched it again on DVD and decided to greatly edit my review.

    It is a film worthy of Oscar nomination and although I now see clearly the need for the role of a 'black guy' played by Samuel L Jackson, I feel even more so that Mr Jackson was the one main actor who was out of place in this great movie.

    There are in fact many story lines within the story about 'mother and child' which make this a wonderful movie. I make the observation that there are scenes on DVD not in the cinema version which help to make sense of why Elizabeth put the underwear in the neighbours drawer when she entered his apartment and gives greater clarity about the ending concerning Elizabeth herself and the black lady who was pregnant and offering her baby up for adoption.

    Naomi Watts in particular gave a very mature performance indeed and reminded me a little of attributes to looks if not ability to Kim Basinger in this role. If she did indeed complete her acting for this film in just 7 days, wow, tremendous!

    The film is beautifully directed and the plots are all well conceived, though and Oscar nomination must surely be coming Mr Garcias way.

    Obviously Naomis character was looking for a 'father figure' and she had an assertive controlling nature. In the cinema version which I saw, there was no scene with the neighbour making love or going to the balcony, so a lot of things didn't make sense.

    the underwear 'thing' will get us all guessing, like the hairpin 'thing' in Chloe, but its a wonderfully entertaining film and its definitely a film to watch a second time around.
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