Wednesday, July 07, 2010

"Mother and Child"

"Mother and Child" is a drama about three women connected by their roles in an adoption. Adoption has had a deep impact on each of their lives.

Karen (Annette Bening) is a bitter, fifty-year-old, health care professional who takes care of her distant, defeatist mother. Karen has never gotten over the loss of the baby girl that her mother forced her give up when she was a teen. She writes letters to the daughter she never knew. She is jealous of any attention her mother gives their housekeeper and her little girl. The girl is a painful reminder of what she has lost. Karen's heart has been closed off for so long that she doesn't know how to respond to the attention from the new physical therapist (Jimmy Smits) at work. Her mother encourages her to be careful so she doesn't "fall" again.

Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) was adopted by an uncaring couple. Shrouded in protective armor, she has grown up to be a cold, steely lawyer in complete control of her life. When she is hired at a new firm, she uses sex to control her bewildered, delighted boss and keep him at safe distance.

Lucy, (Kerry Washington) a successful baker and loving wife, has failed to conceive with her husband. She is bound and determined to adopt a baby - even if that includes anxiously jumping through the hoops created by the baby's birth mother (Shareeka Epps) or raising a child on her own.

This film shows the filial longing and feeling of loss caused by breaking the natural bond between mother and child: how the child doesn't feel complete without her mother and the mother feels that a part of her is missing. There is a deep seated emptiness. The wounds are passed down from generation to generation. These women must find the strength to open their hearts in order to end the cycle of loss.

Motherhood is hard even with the support of a traditional family. Some young women can't find the strength to meet that challenge alone. They make the difficult decision to give their baby up for adoption - in hopes that it will have a better life. This film suggests that the struggles of single motherhood may be less traumatic then severing the maternal bond.

What makes this film special are some painfully authentic scenes. While there are some TVmovie-like conversations about the trials of adoption, there are also silent moments where the action does the talking. It is in these silences that the audience ponders the meaning. In a sense, the experience is enhanced by what the audience brings to it - their memories and experiences allow them to relate. It is those silences that make this a powerful work that leaves you thinking as the credits roll.

Of course, there are some viewers who will not relate to this at all - some will be offended by the inherit subtext that adoption is an unnatural state. Some may complain that the fathers are conspicuously absent. Indeed, the male characters are relegated to supporting roles in the world of, "Mother and Child."

This is film for single mothers who made the difficult decision to put their baby up for adoption, the children they lost, and the people who love them.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal

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