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Review: Mother and Child

Director Rodrigo García's aching new film about absent mothers and absent children

En español | Rodrigo García's new film, Mother and Child, starring Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jimmy Smits, is a touching composition of kinship and the bonds that can change lives.

An aching film about absent mothers and absent children, Mother and Child stars Annette Bening and Naomi Watts as women who inhabit lives that are still reeling from choices made long ago.

The film, which opens in May, was written and directed by Rodrigo García, who made Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her in 2000 and Nine Lives in 2005. In these astute flicks for smart chicks, García probes the very personal stories of women who are old enough to take stock of their lives.

On the surface, this is a film about adoption and the importance of family ties. The lives of three generations of mothers and daughters are interwoven as each considers adoption from a different angle. Underneath this veneer, however, Mother and Child is a study of complicated regrets and resentments. Bening plays Karen, a bitter woman who spends each day writing letters (but never sending them) to the child she gave away when she was 14.

A film about adoption and the importance of family ties.

Bening powerfully captures the grief within Karen's fierce hostility. Kerry Washington also impresses as an infertile wife longing to adopt a baby but grappling with a husband (and an extended family) who is not onboard and a pregnant girl who may or may not choose her. Naomi Watts plays Elizabeth, a successful lawyer whose icy, enigmatic personality has been formed by her sense of rejection — a teenage mother had put her up for adoption 37 years ago. Proud of her self-reliance, Elizabeth is isolated, guarded, and unwilling to connect or trust. Watts's nuanced portrayal of this stubbornly opaque character is thoroughly absorbing; it's a sleight-of-hand performance that succeeds in revealing a character who refuses to be revealed.

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