Day 39: 'Mother & Child'

Samuel L. Jackson and Naomi Watts in 'Mother and Child'Is it because I'm freaking tired or that I actually am adopted that Mother and Child - a melodrama about mothers, children and adoption - got to me? I'm sure both had something to do with it, but the best thing about writer-director Rodrigo Garcia's movie is that it almost never takes the easy way out.

You hear the storyline and you're sure you already know where it's headed. Annette Bening's a fiftysomething woman who - as a pregnant 14-year-old - gave up her child for adoption. Naomi Watts is that child, now a grown and successful lawyer with Samuel L. Jackson as her boss. Kerry Washington, meanwhile, is a woman who can't conceive who's looking with her husband for a child to adopt.

So...it's a Hallmark movie of the week with a bigger budget, bigger stars and a Hallmark resolution, right? Not remotely. Garcia's hoping for 21 Grams and Babel-esque arthouse complexity, and he intentionally makes it difficult to warm up to Bening and Watt's intimidating, unpleasant characters. From scene one, you can tell they're related.

The tone of the film, too, doesn't shoot for tears or sentimentality until near the end, and by that point, you're either with this story or you're out. The strength of the performances will keep most involved. Jimmy Smits, as the decent guy who melts Bening's icy exterior, and Jackson as the older man who becomes involved with Watts' character, are both fine. But it's the women who shine brightest in this mature drama for adults. It has flaws, but it also has quiet, honest moments. Two lines I loved most from it..."The truth is always easier to remember"...and from one generation's mother to the next, at a particularly telling moment..."Grow the [bleep] up and get your act together."

P.S. - Once more, the gods of movie scheduling experienced a snafu (i.e. - I got the times wrong) and what was supposed to be a review for Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky became this write-up of Mother and Child...but no worries, we'll get to the icon and her artist here soon enough...

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