Posted: 01/27/2010

 

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL REVIEWS - MOTHER AND CHILD

by Paul Fischer




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Director Rodrigo García
Screenwriter Rodrigo García
Cast Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Kerry Washington, Jimmy Smits, Samuel L. Jackson
Executive Producer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

The best films at Sundance are those that speak to an audience on themes that are universal, featuring flawed, complex and deeply human characters. Rodrigo García’s Mother and Child is such a film, with some of the most exquisite performances captured on film in ages. Destiny plays a part in the lives of three disparate women from a 50-year-old physical therapist [Annette Bening], the daughter she gave up for adoption 35 years earlier [Naomi Watts], and a woman looking to adopt her first child [Kerry Washington].

Here we have what appears to be three distinct stories, but inevitably they intertwine and come together, but this is not a film so much about narrative but the relationships and the foibles of humanity. The film beautifully and with such profound insight, ventures deep into the hearts and souls of three women whose commonality often stems from our inability to communicate in different ways. Each of the three women are brought to life by three truly great actresses who manage to tell us all we need to know by what we read on their disparately expressive faces. Naomi Watts remains one of the bravest and most extraordinary actors of her generation and in this she excels beyond artistic perfection. As the steely, ferocious and sexually aggressive lawyer, Watts delivers a performance that is hauntingly brilliant. She communicates her isolation and detachment from the world with an exquisite coldness evidences by her body language and vocal tone. She is breathtaking in this. Her boss and lover is played by a masterful Samuel L. Jackson, who gives a beautiful performance as a vulnerable man escaping a grief-stricken past, drawn to this exciting woman who has entered his life. This is a side of Jackson we have never seen before, and a side that reminds one of how sublime he is in moments of tranquillity. His is a beautiful performance that is honest and elegant.

Annette Bening is always fascinating to watch, scared, vulnerable, unable to forget a past riddled with guilt, who is clearly unable to communicate with those around her. There is agelessness to Bening, and we feel her pain through her eyes and the crisp delivery of her dialogue. Kerry Washington is vibrant, sexy and desperately in need of motherhood. She gives a fabulous and charismatic performance.

Beautifully shot and with a quiet evocative score by Ed Shearmur, Mother and Child is perfectly directed with grace and intelligence by the magnificent Rodrigo García, who directed much of last season’s In Treatment. Complex, rich and human, Mother and Child redefines what great cinema truly is.

Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.



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