Karen (Annette Bening) is still miserable from giving up Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) for adoption many years ago. Now a successful lawyer, Elizabeth is having an affair with her boss Paul (Samuel L. Jackson). In a seemingly unrelated story, Lucy (Kerry Washington) and her husband are looking to adopt. Mother and Child is about the bonds between mothers and daughters, examining what is most important in a parent/child relationship: blood or the time spent together.
The performances are great, especially from Jackson who should do more drama, but the characters are for the most part too prickly for the audience to fully engage with. From Douglas Sirk through to Pedro Almodóvar, there have been many male filmmakers drawn to making films about women, and while a powerful subversive edge was often found within the heightened emotions of their melodramas, writer/director Rodrigo García goes for something more conventional and temperate.
The interweaving stories, the attempt to cover an issue from many perspectives and the slightly manipulative tone unfavourably recall Paul Haggis’s Crash. Mother and Child has the pretence of being something more meaningful, but it’s really just a notch above soap opera.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 357, 2010