How entertaining? ★★★★☆
Thought provoking? ★★☆☆☆
19 December 2011
This article is a review of MOTHER AND CHILD.
“You don't seem like a man who's scared by scary things.” Elizabeth (Naomi Watts).
“It's a precaution. Sometimes when you fall, it's hard to get up.” Paul (Samuel L. Jackson).
What an ensemble, virtually every speaking part has a recognisable face; well for those who watch a lot of cinema and American television. It doesn’t feel like stunt casting. The stories are intertwined but not in an Altman-esque way, more linear. This is all about mothers and the relationships with their daughters and their partners. Right from the get go the movie grips. Annette Bening’s Karen has a bad dream and gets into bed with her ill mother, saying “She’ll be 37” – referring to the daughter she gave away at 14. We then see a lawyer, Elizabeth (Watts), being interviewed by the head of a Los Angeles law firm, Paul (Jackson). The exchange is both professional and contains a frisson.
The two women form the sun that the accounts rotate around. They ooze forthrightness: Karen is brittle and clearly riddled with regret, while Elizabeth is bright and unsentimental but maybe lonely. Then we meet Kerry Washington’s Lucy who wants to adopt badly. She can’t have her own. In the car after the first meeting Lucy says in front of her husband, “Please God let us find a baby,” while massaging his groin. It’s a scene that in a weird way epitomises the film – being both suggestive and earnest. Watts and Washington in particular have a magnetic sex appeal.
The acting and dialogue are top notch, keeping proceedings at a heightened emotional level as we encounter interesting relationship after interesting relationship. It is the ending that lets the narrative down – a hard film to conclude, going for the unobvious while seeming to hope for catharsis too. Perhaps a more abrupt, ambiguous climax should have been sought? Emotional and unusually alluring.