I’m not quite sure how I ended up watching Mother and Child instead of Shrek 4 this weekend, but I think it was the casting that ultimately roped me in. Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits. Really – how can you go wrong? Performance-wise, you can’t. These pros can make anything watchable. But the movie does have some major flaws in character development, and I’d be hard-pressed to recommend it except to those particularly interested in the subject of adoption.
The film is about three women struggling to cope with the hand life has dealt them. First, there’s 50-something Karen (Bening), a bitter physical therapist, who at 14, gave her baby up for adoption and never got over the loss. Then there’s Elizabeth, a beautiful, complex, and downright strange lawyer who has no qualms about using her body/sex to achieve control over any situation. She drifts around a lot, but always returns to the place of her birth, and adoption, presumably in case her birth mother ever comes looking for her. And then there’s Lucy (Washington), a young woman desperate to adopt a baby after her own attempts at pregnancy fail.
Throughout the film, the womens’ lives intersect in both predictable and unpredictable ways, while their significant (or not so significant) others impact the story and character development mostly from the sidelines (though I can never get enough of Jimmy Smits who is trying so hard not to look sexy but just can’t help himself). I don’t want to give too much away, because it’s the type of film where the less you know going in, the more you’ll get out of it. Mother and Child is interesting, but it suffers from a couple of fatal errors in structure. The timeline doesn’t quite track, and neither do some major shifts in the main characters’ personalities and demeanor. Bottom line: this film offers solid performances but a weak structure – and it’s definitely for mature audiences only!