Anchored by a trio of plucky performances, Mother And Child is a rousing Hollywood rarity – a film that focuses almost entirely on female relationships without ever succumbing to romcom slushiness. In fact, quite the opposite is true of this commanding drama. The three women at the centre of the film’s narrative are occasionally volatile, often prickly, sometimes hard to relate to, but never anything less than wholly engaging.
When she was a teenager, Karen (Annette Bening) gave up her newborn daughter for adoption. It’s a decision that has haunted her ever since. Now working as a nurse, she’s unaware that her grown-up child, Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), is still living in the same city she was born in, and is now a successful attorney. Meanwhile, Lucy (Kerry Washington) has been unable to bear a child with her partner, and is investigating the possibility of adoption.
The lives of these three women form the crux of Mother And Child. Each has been affected by adoption, each has reacted differently. Karen is a woman lost in her past, prone to emotional outbursts and dreamy musings on her daughter’s possible life. Elizabeth, meanwhile, has no interest in her past, and has become a hardened manipulator entirely untouched by sentimentality.
To brand this nothing more than an ‘adoption’ movie, though, would be unreasonable. Mother And Child excels in its exploration of these three very different women and, more than anything, exists as a showcase for some truly fantastic performances. Though Bening is magnificent as the bristly Karen, it’s Watts who most impresses. At first an ice cold bitch reminiscent of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Elizabeth slowly becomes someone we can empathise with.
In a market where good films solely about women are few and far between, Mother And Child is a poignant exception to the rule. 3/5