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Mother and Child

By: Addison Wylie 

Mother and Child is a character driven film that follows the lives of three individuals; Karen, played by Annette Bening, Elizabeth, played by Naomi Watts, and Lucy, played by Kerry Washington. Karen is close minded and instead of letting people into her life, she constantly forces them away by not thinking before she speaks. However, Karen was pregnant at a very young age and gave up her new born baby for adoption. We meet Elizabeth; a bothersome mistress who appears to be professional and mature. She starts a new job at a firm run by an acknowledged man named Paul, played by Samuel L. Jackson, and the two co-workers start to fall for one another. Elizabeth, though, hasn’t had any contact with her biological mother. She was given up for adoption at a very young age and lacks any sort of association with her mother. Perhaps, Karen and Elizabeth are connected this way. The last piece of the story concerns Lucy’s budding family. Lucy and her husband Joseph, played by David Ramsey, are interested in having a child but due to complications, they have chosen to adopt. The couple meets Ray; a snappy, rough, and young individual who is pregnant and is interested in giving up her child. Ray is played by Shareeka Epps. The three women do not know each other but each of them share mother and daughterly instincts; both pre and postnatal. Does that mean all three lives will connect at one point?

Now that the synopsis is out of the way, I’d like you to picture a wonderful slice of key lime pie. Don’t worry, I know where I’m going with this. This pie, as it sits in the display window of the local bakery, looks like a winner. The crust and the filling look to be the right consistency and it’s the type of treat you’d love to dive right in to. You purchase it, pick up your fork, and cut yourself a decent portion. However, once you take a bite, you taste nothing. You try again and take another bite just to find yourself trying to swallow something that is very bland and flavourless. Mother and Child is this tasteless pie. Rodrigo García’s direction and script are both aimless. He has great actors and competent crew members but he forgets to give them any motivation or inspiration. Everything in the film is one-note and lacks emotion due to García’s limited guidance. The three adequate actresses can be very good when given the right material but here, each actress speaks in the same unenthused tone, adapts the exact same dry personality, and all three players seem uninterested throughout the duration of the movie. It is, however, interesting to see Samuel L. Jackson step outside his comfort zone and tackle this role. With poor direction though, even Jackson seems bored with the material. Hopefully, this experience doesn’t scare him away from indie dramas because I do believe it’s a territory he could have more fun with under different management.

Speaking of Jackson’s character, the supporting characters are actually more interesting than the main ones. Carla Gallo and Marc Blucas play Tracy and Steven, a promising young couple who lives next door to Elizabeth. Gallo knows how to play with awkward humour very well. Laughs are found in a scene where Tracy and Steven meet Elizabeth for the first time. Gallo holds awkward pauses and executes subtle mannerisms perfectly while Blucas cooperates and lends a comedic hand as well. There’s even an interesting subplot where Elizabeth flirts with Steven and the two develop a brief affair but García’s script doesn’t allow for these situations to develop further. The audience ends up longing to catch up with Tracy and Steven. Even scenes with Ray are intriguing due to how Epps portrays her. It’s unfortunate that the lead characters aren’t as appealing as these secondary characters.

Because García was out to lunch, the film also lacks personality or pizaz. Nothing about the film is visually stimulating. Cinematographer Xavier Pérez Grobet utilizes a dark colour palette that looks rich during indoor scenes but when characters are outside, the film looks dim. The sun could be shining the brightest its ever shone and the scene would still look opaque. Along with dark visuals, the humdrum performances, and a hollow cinematic personality, the original music composed by Edward Shearmur adds to the monotony. The notes drag and the tracks, that sound like rejected instrumental lullabies, blend into one another. It’s almost like the film is trying to put you to sleep.

Two allegories in a review may be deemed as excessive but I feel it’s appropriate. The attitude and pacing of the film is the equivalent to someone plunking the middle key of a piano and not experimenting by going up or down any octaves. It just stays on that one note and doesn’t take risks. Mother and Child is a bad movie, no question about that. There’s nothing to hate about it per se but the fact that it’s so plain and uninvolving is enough reason to pass on it.

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