The hothouse drama Mother and Child is organized like a femme-friendly spa that specializes in treatments for the psyche rather than the skin. Soft New Agey music tinkles intrusively. Sore spots are prodded and massaged. Clients pass one another in the changing room. The ritual is exquisite to some, and excruciating to others.
I’m one of those saying Ouch, stop poking me. That’s not to say that Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, and Kerry Washington aren’t lovely playing women who must deal with the life-altering consequences of adoption. Just that the characters in Rodrigo García’s movie never rise above being sample clientele. Bening, in a forceful, barefaced performance, is fiftysomething Karen, who, as a teenager, gave an infant daughter up for adoption and has wept ever since, masking her sadness with a sour, spinster veneer. Watts is Elizabeth, an adoptee in her 30s who has turned the loneliness of having never known her own mother into a sexualized hardness she likes to think of as independence. Young, married, and infertile Lucy, played by Washington, longs for a child of her own. Woe, by the way, unto the good, decent men — played by Jimmy Smits, Samuel L. Jackson, and David Ramsey — who cross these women’s paths. In the ovarian jungle of Mother and Child, each gent is undervalued in his own way. C+