Mother and Child
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
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In Mother and Child, three women have to make hard decisions affecting their personal lives, and while they don’t know one another, the common thread that binds them is the issue of adoption.
Karen, played by Annette Benning, had a baby as a teenager and was forced to give her up for adoption. Karen is charged with taking care of her terminally ill mother, and she’s a tough cookie at the mental health facility where she works. She’s bitter for many reasons, and this bitterness shows on her sleeve.
In turn, her child, Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) grows up not knowing her natural mother, but she excels nonetheless and turns out to be a successful lawyer with high-risk tendencies regarding sex. Obviously, she’s trying to make up for lack of her biological parents’ love with an abundance of boyfriends and lovers. Her dealings are made more complicated, because she doesn’t settle in one place for too long. And when she becomes pregnant, she keeps the father’s identity secret and decides to rough it alone.
This is made even more complicated, because Elizabeth’s relationship with Paul, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is one that is of a mixed-raced and employer-employee. But she runs away before he can figure out that he’s an expectant father. In keeping with Elizabeth’s careless, irresponsible personal life, she has also seduced her neighbor’s husband. So, it’s anybody’s guess who fathered her child.
The last woman is Lucy (Kerry Washington) who is just trying to bear a child for her husband and then decides to adopt, with surprising results. She’s interrogated by the young mother-to-be who is making selections as to which couple will adopt her baby. The young girl Ray is played by Shareed Epps, and she’s arrogant and displays ill will toward Lucy’s husband. Ray’s labor and delivery brings with it devastating, intolerable outcomes for Lucy. But all is not lost, and in some strange way, Lucy, Elizabeth and Karen are forever linked before the movie ends.
The ensemble cast in Mother and Child is phenomenal, with other stars that include Jackson’s wife, LaTayna Richardson, Tatyana Ali is Paul’s daughter. S. Epatha Merkerson is Ada, Lucy’s mother. David Morse plays the teen boyfriend of Karen, who briefly comes back into her life. Jimmy Smits is Paco, the man who finally sweeps Karen off her feet and marries her. Michael Warren is a family member of Paul’s; Amy Brennerman plays Elizabeth’s Ob/Gyn, and Lisa Gay Hamilton plays Leticia, Ray’s mother.
Mother and Child is in limited release now, but hopefully if it doesn’t expand to more theaters, the DVD release will be forthcoming. It’s a great film on the subject of adoption and the emotional strings that are attached therein.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.
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