Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Mother and Child


Sometimes you are pretty sure in the first 15 minutes where a movie will end up in the final reel. And sometimes you are wrong. Annette Bening gave up a baby girl for adoption at the age of 14. It’s 37 years later, and the child, Naomi Watts, is a lawyer successful in her field but unable to form close relationships. She has an affair with Samuel L. Jackson and becomes pregnant, in spite of the fact that she had her tubes tied when she was 17. Bening has never stopped obsessing about the little girl, and also emotionally shields herself. Jimmy Smits finally breaks down her resistance and, at the same time her daughter begins to look for her, she begins to look for her daughter. At the same time, Kerry Washington and her husband are trying to adopt, and it’s a lot harder than they thought, as the birth mother is a real control freak, and the prospective father is losing his enthusiasm. All these events are tied together through an adoption service run by a nun, Cherry Jones. Now, wouldn’t you say it’s about 99% certain that Bening and Watts will have a reunion in the end? The only question in my mind was whether it would go well or badly. Well, the 1% long-odds horse came in. It doesn’t end that way. And there had to be at least 50 ways this emotional tangle could resolve itself in a feel-good way, and I think the one that happened is maybe the one I least expected … though by then I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy Hallmark-card movie with pat answers to everything you always wanted to know about adoption. The acting by everyone involved, even the small parts, is excellent, and the writing is first-rate. The entanglements and coincidences might be unlikely, but I never felt they were forced. There is no axe to grind here, just a sympathetic examination of three women who seem to think that having a baby might solve everything. It’s never that simple.