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Mother and Child

a film by Rodrigo Garcia

One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to modern mainstream filmmaking is just how dumb the powers-that-be believe their audiences to be. Sure, there is an awful lot of precedence considering the box office take for every Adam Sandler/Jim Carrey/Tyler Perry movie released these days, but somewhere between those lines (ever so blurry that they are) there are people with at least a bit of intelligence. Intelligence enough to not need every little detail of their movie spelled out for them. Okay, perhaps I am being a bit too optimistic in my outlook toward the modern multiplex crowd (and much less critical than my usual jaded self!) and perhaps they are just that stupid. Stupid enough to need everything explained to them for fear of not 'getting' the movie they are watching. Whatever the case may be, the lack of the constant need for explanation in Mother and Child (re: it is never dumbed down!) is the one thing I most like about the movie. Well that and Annette Bening.

Mother and Child, which isn't a mainstream movie anyway and shouldn't be inferred into such a crowd as my opening salvo introduced, is the intertwining story of three women and how their lives have been and are being influenced by adoption. Starring Annette Bening (in one of her strongest performances to date!), Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington as the aforementioned three women, Mother and Child never sinks into the maudlin affair one would expect it to - and one this critic was happily surprised to see it rally against. With storylines that intersect but never fully integrate, keeping their individual flow from becoming usurped by another (though Washington's story seems to be the one less developed for some reason), Rodrigo Garcia's (apparent) chick flick of a movie (after seeing the trailer I mocked to myself how it looked like should have been a Lifetime or Hallmark channel movie instead of a theatrical release!) ends up a rather strong treatise on the subject of adoption and its effects on those on either end of it.

Granted there are some parts of the film that seem to fumble (the relationship between Watts and Samuel L. Jackson and the comparative weakness of the Washington episodes foremost among these) and many supposed plot twists are seen coming the proverbial mile away, but the central performance of Bening (she plays the role with equal amounts of off-putting aplomb, pathos-riddled angst and the actresses usual classic Hollywood charm), the interlocking storytelling that inherently wards off tedium (a filmmaking style seen in a lot of foreign cinema these days - most notably in the so-called Mexican New Wave - but rarely here in the US) and the overall mood of the film - i.e. never having to explain motivations and/or actions the way mainstream movies so often do, instead just allowing the film to move forward at its own pace and reasoning - make for a rather splendid surprise. Of course, I do not have to explain any of this to you, do I? [06/30/10]

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