Mark Metcalf
Moving Pictures

Mother and Child

By - Jun 5th, 2010 04:00 am
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Photo courtesy of Everest Entertainment

It’s a movie full of miracles.

It’s a fable, or a parable. It can’t be true.

All of the major characters are incapable of telling a lie. There are male characters who are so generous, gentle and kind-hearted that it makes me cry for what is possible. The women are all capable of looking at themselves with absolute honesty and changing their very nature because they know they need to.

It can’t be true. It’s a fable, or a parable.

Rodrigo Garcia makes, I think, the most beautiful movies about women that I have ever seen. They are real women, in very real and very difficult circumstances.  He empowers with sometimes hard, but always intelligent, honesty and insight, the ones to whom society has given the least power: the people who clean your house and, in this film, a pregnant teenager. He understands the innate wisdom that women have access to because they are tied so directly to the rhythms of the earth and the moon, because they have evidence every month that they are part of, not above and beyond, the natural universe.

In Mother and Child one woman, played by Naomi Watts, has become very successful in what is considered a man’s world, the world of the law. She understands and embraces the power of her intelligence and the power of her sexuality. Yet she only discovers and finds comfort in her true self when, despite every effort of science and medical technology to prevent it, she becomes pregnant and instinctively decides to keep the child.

Another woman, played by Annette Bening, gave a child up for adoption at her mother’s insistence when she was 14. Now past 50, she still lives with and cares for her mother and dwells on the loss of that child. In spite of the walls she has built around herself, she is able to listen to others and find happiness, forgiveness, and, in the end, the daughter of the daughter that she abandoned.

It’s a movie full of miracles.

It’s the kind of movie where one character can ask another if they believe in God, and then wait for an honest answer. It’s the kind of movie where a character can look honestly at their life and their relationship to others and make an adjustment based on their sincere desire to be a better person. And it’s the kind of movie where Samuel L. Jackson can give a performance that is gentle, kind, wise, smart and sexual, and not in the least the angry Sam Jackson we have come to expect.

It’s a movie full of miracles.

It’s a fable, or a parable. It can’t be true.

But it is true. As true as anything we might hope to be or become. Truer certainly than superheroes. Truer than anybody with a gun.

There is one moment that I must speak of. A scene of dominance and submission, of sex as the power of one person over a willing partner. It is highly charged, erotic in its own way. Garcia cuts from it directly to a scene in which Annette Bening’s character is putting away laundry  in her very ill mother’s room. As Bening puts laundry away and complains of her difficult day, her mother, in the foreground but not our focus, dies without a sound, with no fuss, and Bening notices the suddenness of this new silence, where before there had only been silence. She turns, and she knows, and her world changes. It is such a quiet observation about sex when linked with ambition juxtaposed with the simplicity, the matter-of-factness of death.

Mother and Child opens this weekend at Landmark’s Downer Theatre.

Categories: Movies

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