Mother and Child review

At the risk of sounding sexist, this picture could be decidedly labelled a "woman's film". It deals with three individuals, all wrestling with female crises over motherhood and adoption.

Bening is the embittered medical worker still obsessing over the baby she gave up for adoption at age 14. Said baby is now 37-year-old lawyer Watts, a classy lady with a cool and pragmatic approach to sexual relationships. She has no hesitation in sleeping with her new boss (Jackson) and married neighbour (Blucas). One of them makes her surprisingly pregnant. Both women are initially hard-nosed bitches but display a more vulnerable side when the layers are peeled back.

Bening's character, for example, is very harsh towards friendly co-worker Smits when he makes his affections known to her, and their awkward bonding is very amusing to witness. But over time she thaws towards him. The third woman featured in this solid drama is young Washington, desperate for a baby but unable to conceive. She is sincerely hoping to adopt a child from teenager Epps, but the independently minded girl has exacting standards when choosing the appropriate mother. Eventually these three scenarios tie up with one another but it takes a fair while to get there.

The cast are exemplary. One can't fault them in any way, with Bening excellent yet again in a role destined to be unjustly overlooked. When will she get the attention she deserves? She's a wonderful actress. And so too here are Watts and Washington, equally fine and fearless in dealing with their motherhood issues in vastly contrasting ways.

It's a well meaning affair with nuanced direction but fatally overlong. While it's right that we are given time to get to know the protagonists, a tighter pace and a little pruning would have been welcome. A good effort overall then, and certainly worth a look, but too long to be ultimately rewarding.

Mother and Child at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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