Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mother and Child

Code of Conduct

It's the Mother's Day weekend which may account for the slew of films either being centered around motherhood, romance or women, but of all the offerings for this week, none is as tender a tale as writer-director Rodrigo Garcia's Mother and Child, which to one's surprise, an insightful film about woman condition, but a project with a man at the helm. In a way the film celebrates womanhood, but seen from another angle, it's pretty focused on negativity, the exploitation of sexuality, and indecisiveness.

Containing 3 main narrative threads, the presence of a man is almost a token, with David Ramsey playing a fellow colleague who romances Karen (Annette Bening) with great difficulty, David Morse playing Karen's old flame who was guilty of impregnating her when she's a minor, and whom Karen still holds a candle for, and the biggest mo-fo in cinematic history to date, Samuel L. Jackson as Paul the founder of a law firm, in what would possibly be his most docile role in recent years, yet for his character's age, still has in him a very potent output in which to penetrate tied-up fallopian tubes.

Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia's Mother and Child is an extremely poignant attempt that celebrates the inevitable motherly bonds that form between a mother and her child, and central to the story is the basic premise of Karen at 14 years giving up her child for adoption, and for years to date continue to feel guilt and constantly wondering whether her child is still alive, and if so just what she is doing. Therapy comes from writing letters in her diary to her child to keep herself sane, as her grumpy, caustic nature puts her off in people relationships, including that of her mother, which gives the title a different spin where Karen is perhaps the conduit.

Naomi Watt's Elizabeth is the open secret that the audience are told is that child Karen gave up as a baby when born, and has so far lived a life that's singular and responsible for only herself. An alpha-female who's a hotshot lawyer, she relocates back to LA and joins Paul's law firm, and slowly her wistful demeanour gets peeled back to show a domineering woman who doesn't hesitate to exploit her sexuality to pull strings, as well as having that mean streak in her through the seduction of her neighbour and the deliberate objective to just screw up their happy married life just because she couldn't stand her neighbour's inquisitive, chirpy wife. One would have thought that she would be intrinsically bitter about her beginnings and hence her surgical procedure, only for Fate to play a cruel game to have her become like her mother with the same options made available, and for the audience, to keep us guessing.

Kerry Washington's Lucy is a woman who cannot conceive, and through her storyline the callous nature of adoption is explored. It's not easy on either side trying to find suitable adoptive parents for one's child, and almost emotionally painful for one to give one's child up after 9 months of carrying the foetus, and on the other side having to deal with the doubts that inevitably creep into such a business like transaction, rather than one which involves nature. The character of Lucy also is someone who's not very likeable as she's the classic case of always pushing the blame to someone else (and here her long-suffering, child-loving husband) and constantly teetering on the borders of a neurotic pessimistic whiner, and you're more than goaded to pass judgement on her, whether it is her just desserts in not being able to have children so that her evil genes don't get passed on to the next generation.

With all round fine performances by the actresses, Mother and Child has enough to keep you engaged as it plods along to poke and prod the many issues brought up in its narrative. It's easy to connect the dots as the film moves into the last act, but it's the cast's riveting delivery that keeps you glued to the screen. If you're up for some female centric story, and want to finish up that packet of tissues you have in your pocket, then this film will be your automatic choice.

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