Mother and Child is another helping of what’s known as the ‘lasagne’ movie; layer after layer of narrative melted together with rich character arcs, seasoned with Emotional Scenes and some tasteful acting.
Director Rodrigo García introduces us to Karen (Annette Bening), caring for her ageing mother and peeking at life suspiciously before returning to her shell. Enter Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), a poised and remote lawyer with implacable self-control and a disgust for domesticity. She is followed by Lucy (Kerry Washington) who, unable to become pregnant, seeks to adopt another woman’s baby.
Karen gave up her child and Elizabeth was adopted by a couple she no longer knows.These are the first suds of a billowing soap opera; of hope, loss and regret, of intimacy with strangers, of searching and waiting to be found. Mother and Child bears the fingerprints of exec-producer Alejandro González Iñárritu, the doyen of unlikely harmony, in its reverent tone, its knotted structure, its faith in the flowering dramas of reconciliation.
And yet Iñárritu is maybe most noticeable in his absence; think of the way Amores Perros and Mexico City are one and the same; or the way the undergrowth of Barcelona bursts from the screen in Biutiful – not so for Mother and Child.
A film this laconically paced and loosely plotted needs its environ to pick up the slack and stretch it out, but the Los Angeles of Rodrigo García is at odds with the neon circus of more visually inventive filmmakers. Hushed, discreet and cool, it’s a sprawl of picket fences and furnished lawns where private concerns quietly unspool. Too quietly, in this case.
As these separate lives collide, conjoin and intersect, a host of needling questions emerge. What does it mean to lose one’s mother, or to give up one’s child? Is adoption, as the film seems to toy with, really a juncture from the natural order of things? With more creative bravery, García will grow into a director of depth and imagination. But Mother and Child is too dutiful, overly sincere and its impressions are easily washed away.
Published in the Shame issue, Little White Lies