Mother and Child

You Ever Want to Give a Tissue to a Movie?

Mother and Child

Starring: Naomi Watts, Annette Bening

By Robert Patrick

Remember how “Crash” and “Babel” had a kaleidoscope of stories splitting into other stories? A mutating cell of sobbing and spit bubbles? Last year we had “Crossing Over” and “The Burning Plain” follow the fractured, but oh so connectable, fragments align with the kind of boundless joy that a child gets after making their first puzzle. No, those movies weren’t that great, especially with the limp maudlin trajectory behind their feeble bow. Director Rodrigo Garcia’s take on the vignette genre (can we just dub it a genre at this point?) is equally as plodding and overzealous as the aforementioned dramas, though just a bit more engaging.

Explaining the plotline of Garcia’s picture will be difficult, full of inurbane spoilers, and much akin to listening to swing instructions. To put it lightly, the movie is full of characters dealing with the consequence of adoption. Karen (Annette Bening) gave up her baby for adoption at fourteen. How did she deal with it thirty-some years later? Lucy (Kerry Washington) wants to adopt a child with her husband, since they cannot conceive. Will they be good parents? There is a blind girl who has the wisdom of an old wizard that sits alone, atop a building, that gives advice to some of the movie’s central characters. What the hell does this have to do with anything? Garcia’s movie intersects other stories, much like the ones already described, and shakes them up in a martini glass until the contents spill over like the grip from a bad bartender.

“Mother and Child” has some impressive acting, but most of it revolves around runny noses and the hiccupping of a distressed cast member. Most of these vignette movies, in fact, seem like acting reels to show how one should audition for a drama where you have to cry in an authentic fashion. “Mother and Child” plays more like the crying Olympics of actors, than a concise and well structured movie.

I’m also tired of the vignette genre gathering Hollywood heavies together, who, because of the multitude of stories, get to shed their star power to work for the “better” of the film. Is it noble? Possibly for some. Most of the time I feel like I’m watching these actors and actresses work for a “Best Ensemble: Biggest Gathering of Notable Players in an Inconsequential Drama Involving Forty-Subplots Award,” which is handed out somewhere in Hollywood, I’m sure.

“Mother and Child” is also notable for including two actors – David Ramsey and Jimmy Smits – that played in “Dexter.” I can also tell you that Tatyana Ali is in Garcia’s film – and that she still looks sixteen-years-old (is she regressing?) I would tell you other plot-points, but I wouldn’t want to sound like Matthew 1:2 and start dropping twenty-nine thousand “begats” on you.

Go see this movie to see several convenient plot-twists, in places where they could never logically happen in real life, and to see who is victorious in who can have the most tear stained cheeks: Kerry Washington or Annette Bening. Or you could go see this picture if you’re interested in the psychoanalysis of adoptive parents – which I’m sure is the bulk of moviegoers out there! Let the dramatic sledgehammer fall!


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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