Two things you should know about director Rodrigo García. He likes stories about women. And he likes them short (the stories, not the women). From his 1999 debut Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her to 2005’s Nine Lives, García has become something of an expert in making films that weave together disparate, female-oriented tales.
Receiving a belated release (it was made in 2009), Mother And Child is no different, telling a trio of stories linked by the theme of adoption. Most painful is physical therapist Karen (Annette Bening), who must look after her ailing mother but remains haunted by the fact that she got pregnant aged 14 – and gave up her daughter.
Elsewhere, high-maintenance Lucy (Kerry Washington) and her husband can no longer have children, and are looking to adopt – via a pregnant 20-year-old. And then there’s mother-and-child-less Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), who has returned to LA to take a job at a law firm run by the levelheaded Paul (Samuel L. Jackson).
The four main actors are all on fine form, with Bening particularly strong as the permanently crabby singleton and Watts thoroughly convincing as a sexually promiscuous vixen. Washington also lets rip in scenes that demonstrate just how anxiety-riddled the adoption process can be, while Jackson offers one of his most soulful, low-key turns.
So where’s the catch? Unfortunately, Mother And Child’s flaws are story-led, the narrative creaking with contrivance and completely falling apart in its final trimester. Attempting a far-tooneatly wrapped finale, García stumbles when he should soar.
Structural issues hamper an otherwise thought-provoking and well-acted meditation on motherhood. While emotions run high, it won’t leave you pregnant with anticipation.