Rodrigo Garcia has admirably distinguished himself through his commitment to creating intelligent roles for his heavily distaff casts. Like his debut, Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000), and Nine Lives (2005), Mother and Child is a compassionate, multi-threaded tale about the lives of everyday women. Garcia's latest takes potentially banal subjects—what defines "family," biological parents versus those who adopt—and transforms them into something powerful. The film focuses on three women: defensive physical therapist Karen (Annette Bening), who lives with her ailing mother and writes letters to the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was 14; steely attorney Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), adopted at birth and free of emotional attachments to anyone; and high-strung bakery owner Lucy (Kerry Washington), who, unable to conceive, begins the adoption process with her husband. In a film with several graceful touches, Garcia's avoidance of another reproductive choice disappoints all the more: None of the pregnant women discuss abortion. The sanctity of the titular connection is real, as are the characters Garcia creates. But in ignoring an option that these women surely must have grappled with, Garcia's laudable film stops short of being great.
No attachments? Watts and Samuel L. Jackson.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., May 21. Rated R. 126 minutes.