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Mother and Child

Film examines life's messy realities

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Mother's Day came late this year. Sure there was the second week in May when we sent flowers and waited an hour for a table to have Sunday brunch. But the real gift this year is Mother and Child, a wonderful film playing at Flicks.

Mother and Child isn't just another movie to join a tidy list of good independent dramas. It's a beautifully woven tapestry examining the fundamental need for connection. The film visits the complex lives of three women.

Annette Bening plays Karen, who at 14 gave up a child for adoption. That, coupled with her being the sole caregiver for her dying mother, manifests her brittle public persona. Pity her co-worker (Jimmy Smits) when he makes a valiant attempt to reach her emotionally. To his credit, and our enjoyment, he tries again, and again, and again. Smits turns a small role into a real gem.

A second story in the movie involves Naomi Watts as Elizabeth. She plays a barracuda of an attorney, and heaven help the man--or woman--who gets in her way. Love and war are interchangeable and her sexuality is a mere weapon in her arsenal. Her self-loathing and her taste for vengeance mask a lifetime of secrets and lies. If you're a fan of Watts, this is some of her best work.

The third cycle of the film introduces us to Lucy (Kerry Washington) whose focus begins and ends with her heartbreaking attempt to become a mother. She and her husband enter into an adoption agreement with a young pregnant woman (Shareeka Epps) who holds the upper hand in an uneasy relationship. Washington continues to fill her resume with fine performances (Ray, Last King of Scotland), and this may be her best.

Mother and Child's supporting cast fills the screen with actors at the top of their game: Samuel L. Jackson, Cherry Jones, S. Epatha Merkerson, Amy Brenneman, David Morse, Elizabeth Pena.

Mother and Child was written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia and is a first-class, Oscar-caliber effort. Garcia clearly trusts the skills of his cast to walk a very high emotional tightrope without ever letting them fall into a net of melodrama. He never forces the story, yet he unleashes the power of a script that reveals the best and worst of the human experience. Garcia's efforts are equaled by those of executive producer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the master of the cinematic art form that weaves separate tales into one solid story. Think 21 Grams and Babel.

This is no simple chick-flick. Mother and Child is indeed for men who take great care in their relationships with women. But most importantly, it is a film for women, all kinds of women--mothers, daughters, sisters and wives ... those in need and those who give. It handles the issues of pregnancy, surrogacy, courtship, love and sex in a mannered, adult fashion.

Yes, there are flaws in the film, but they lean more toward reality than drama. Above all, the movie is about the grace of motherhood. When you do get around to seeing Mother and Child (and I hope that you do), you'll enjoy your second Mother's Day this year.

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