Mother and Child

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In the ’50s they had the ‘women’s picture’. That’s a sneerily patronising sounding term now. But it comes to mind when watching this heartfelt mother-daughter melodrama. If Oprah made movies, they might look like this: non-judgemental, the characters all cruising towards be-their-best-selfdom. What keeps the whole thing from toppling into an abyss of unwatchable TV drama histrionics is a pair of dynamite performances from Annette Bening and Naomi Watts.

Bening, every bit as impressive as she was in ‘The Kids Are All Right’, stars as a woman who has never come to terms with giving her baby up for adoption when she was 14. Over the years her sadness has congealed into bitterness and prickly defensiveness. Watts is the daughter she’s never met, a lawyer in her late thirties, nakedly ambitious, brittle, single, no kids. ‘Women find me threatening,’ she says, ‘I’m not in the sisterhood.’ No kidding. In one scene, at the flat of her married lover, she folds up a pair of her knickers and leaves them for his (pregnant!) wife to find. In another film it would be played for sniggers. Here it’s unbelievably cruel. Told in parallel, the two women’s stories inch ever closer, alongside a third concerning an infertile couple adopting a baby.

Many of the scenes play out with considerable emotional fluency and writer-director Rodrigo Garcia shows great awareness of how mothers and daughters press each other’s buttons. But, for those who don’t have a sweet tooth, there’s a bit too much basking in the honeyed glow of emotional growth going on. Still, you’ve got to wonder if we’re looking at a comeback of sorts for the ‘women’s picture’… with a PC rebrand, perhaps, as movies for the midweek crowd: older audiences who want less bang for their grey buck, who flocked to see ‘The Help’ and will turn out for anything starring Judi Dench.

Release details

Release date: Friday January 6 2012
Duration: 125 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Screenwriter: Rodrigo Garcia
Cast: Naomi Watts
Annette Bening
Kerry Washington
Samuel L Jackson
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