director Rodrigo García explores the maternal instinct in Mother and Child
through three disparate L.A. women: Karen (Annette Bening), a physical therapist, cares for her ailing mother; Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) works as a high-powered attorney; and Lucy (Kerry Washington), a bakery owner, plans to adopt (only Lucy has a spouse). An opening sequence reveals that Karen, who became pregnant at 14, gave Elizabeth up for adoption. Though the daughter has no desire to track down the mother, Karen has been mourning her loss for decades, never working up the nerve to take the next step. All three turn to the same adoption agency (Cherry Jones, who donned a nun's habit for Broadway's Doubt
, plays Sister Joanne). When Karen yields to the advances of a kindly divorcé (Jimmy Smits), and Elizabeth, who's been sleeping with her boss (Samuel L. Jackson) and her married neighbor (Marc Blucas), finds herself with child, their feelings of anger and resentment start to melt. Lucy, meanwhile, has been meeting with a prickly expectant mother (Half Nelson
's Shareeka Epps) who may hold the key to her happiness--assuming that a baby will solve all life's problems. García clearly venerates motherhood, but he doesn't let any of his characters off the hook: Karen can be cruel, Elizabeth can be cold, and Lucy can be whiny, but they overcome their lesser natures. There are a few missteps, like a soft-focus montage toward the end, but García manages a sprawling cast with finesse, and his gifted leads have rarely been better. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
From writer-director Rodrigo Garcia (TV'S Big Love
, Nine Lives
) and executive producer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel
) comes the moving story of three women and the power of the unbreakable bond between mother and child. Three women's lives share a common core: the have all been profoundly affected by adoption. Karen (Annette Bening) placed a baby for adoption at age 14 and has been haunted ever since by the daughter she never knew. Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) grew up as an adopted child; she's a bright and ambitious lawyer, but a flinty loner in her personal life. Lucy (Kerry Washington) and her husband are just embarking on the adoption odyssey, hoping for the opportunity to become parents.