127 minutes

Hovering at the edges of Hollywood and Indiewood for the past decade, Colombian-born Rodrigo García (son of writer Gabriel García Márquez) has made his name on television, directing and writing for Six Feet Under or In Treatment, but is already on his fifth feature since his breakthrough with 1999's Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her. For Mother and Child, a dry-eyed yet intensely emotional meditation on regrets, he threads together three stories connected by their theme of adoption: those of Karen (Annette Bening), a bitter spinster haunted by the child she gave away as a teenager; Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), a coldly clinical, high-powered lawyer who was herself given for adoption; and Lucy (Kerry Washington), a high-strung young wife who, unable to conceive, rushes headlong into an ill-advised adoption process.
    The unwritten laws of mosaic filmmaking imply that the three stories will come together at some point. But mr. García evades all contrivances in letting each of them play themselves out at a leisurely pace, avoiding all of the obvious off-ramps and allowing his first-rate ensemble cast, in uniformly well-rounded, remarkable performances (though ms. Bening and Samuel L. Jackson, as ms Watts' intrigued and ultimately seduced boss, are standouts), to breathe life into his carefully-written characters. That's not enough to undo the feeling that Lucy's story is surplus to the film's narrative economy and the only one that is more of a screenwriter's conceit, designed to wrap up the film all too neatly.
     But that's a minor quibble since what really matters in this smart, sensitive melodrama, a modern-day equivalent of the classic "woman's picture", is not so much what is said as what is left unspoken, admirably performed and carefully, sensitively handled by mr. García and his cinematographer Xavier Pérez Grobet.

Starring Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Kerry Washington, Jimmy Smits; and Samuel L. Jackson; S. Epatha Merkerson, Cherry Jones, Elpidia Carrillo, Shareeka Epps, David Morse, Eileen Ryan, Amy Brenneman, David Ramsey, Britt Robertson, Lisagay Hamilton, Elizabeth Peña, Marc Blucas.
     Directed and written by Rodrigo García; produced by Julie Lynn, Lisa Maria Falcone; music by Edward Shearmur; director of photography (Efilm), Xavier Pérez Grobet; production designer, Christopher Tandon; costume designer, Susie de Santo; film editor, Steven Weisberg.
     A Sony Pictures Classics presentation, in association with Everest Entertainment, of a Mockingbird Pictures production. (US distributor, Sony Pictures Classics. World sales, Westend Films.)
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 11 (Lisbon), April 13th 2011.


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