Mother and Child Movie Poster Image

Mother and Child



Adoption drama probes complex anger, heartbreak, hope.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The overriding theme: Our past may haunt us, but it doesn’t have to define us. That’s certainly evident in the metamorphoses Elizabeth, Karen, and Lucy undergo. It’s a very empowering message. Also: Time does run out, so live the life you can -- now.

Positive role models

There are no saints in this movie, and what a relief; instead, each character has his or her own strengths and foibles. In many ways, they each have something admirable about them, even the steeliest of the bunch. And they’re also woefully flawed. But oh what an arc they follow, especially Karen and Elizabeth, who are both eager to seek, if not happiness, then peace.


Lots of anger, but not much violence. A woman knocks everything off a counter at her doctor’s office in rage; soon after, she calls the doctor a name. A man and a woman have a loud fight in a parking lot after she overreacts to his kind gesture.


One character seduces her boss, and they have a sex scene together in which they’re nearly fully clothed but sex is simulated. The female later flashes her breasts to someone else briefly, and she also conducts a purely sexual affair with a married man. Her backside is also visible in two scenes. The movie begins with two teens kissing, and the girl takes off her top, revealing a bra. Other characters kiss. A married couple is shown in bed in the middle of having intercourse; the man’s behind is somewhat visible under the sheets, and the woman’s breasts are also momentarily revealed.


Some pungent language, from “hell” and “damn,” and the infrequent use of harsher swear words like “f--k” and “c--t.”

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some social drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this heartrending drama examines the complex repercussions of one adoption, and how its effects radiate outward from mother and child and can still be felt through the years. There’s no downplaying it: The film’s serious, and its heavy subjects may prove too overwhelming for both adults and the oldest of teens. There’s also some swearing (a rare "f--k" and "c--t"), plus flashes of nudity, and several sex scenes where very little is shown.

Kids say

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What's the story?

Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia’s wrenching drama finds a 51-year-old Los Angeles nurse, Karen (Annette Bening), still smarting from a decision she made as a 14 year old: to give up the baby she became pregnant with when she decided to have sex with her then-boyfriend. Not a day goes by when she doesn’t think about that child, to whom she writes everyday in her journal. What has become of her? Does she ever think of her mother? And yet, she can barely be civil to her cleaning lady’s young child and to her co-workers. Meanwhile, that baby has grown into a high-powered lawyer named Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), a steely, antsy soul who can’t seem to commit to a job, a place, a person for very long. But soon after her own mother dies, Karen decides it’s time to search for Elizabeth or she will never find peace; but will Elizabeth feel the same way? Meanwhile, a wife (Kerry Washington) prepares to adopt even as her marriage teeters on the brink of extinction.

Is it any good?


The first 10 minutes may just be one of the most powerful-yet-economical beginnings to a movie yet, with a scene of two teenagers making out that hurtles forward into the present. Swiftly, we know where the characters are; how they got there; how they’re shaped. Bening is in fine form with her brittle Karen whose calcified heart has entombed years of pain; Watts, meanwhile, frightens (in a good way) with her fearlessness. Her Elizabeth is strong and broken, distant and compelling. In short, she’s fully formed and convincing -- and there aren’t many film roles written this way anymore. Neither are there enough actresses with the chops to pull off such icy, yet moving, character. Washington holds her own against this formidable duo.

To be sure, critics may take offense at moments of heavy-handedness: Why, for instance, must the film’s sage be portrayed by a blind woman? (Woody Allen’s been there, done that in Crimes And Misdemeanors). And why must Elizabeth’s suitor (Samuel L. Jackson, achingly vulnerable) be inhumanly perfect? But Mother and Child is a beautiful movie, period, one that deserves to be seen by those who can handle the film's emotional intensity. Prepare for some unabashed weeping.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Karen, and the daughter she gave up, Elizabeth, were formed by the singular experience they shared so long ago: her birth and subsequent adoption. Are their characterizations believable? Do you think the movie exaggerates the characters to create an emotional response in the viewer? If so, how?

  • What kinds of questions about adoption does this movie bring up for you? Do you know anyone who's been involved with adoption? Did this movie make you think differently about adoption? If so, why?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 7, 2010
DVD/Streaming release date:December 14, 2010
Cast:Annette Bening, Cherry Jones, Naomi Watts, Samuel L. Jackson
Studio:Sony Pictures Classics
Run time:125 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:sexuality, brief nudity, and language

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Adult Written bykhan2705 October 27, 2010

Incredibly powerful and emotionally charged drama.

OMG ...... i cried alot watching this movie, i seriously did. Mother and Child" is a drama about three women connected by their roles in an adoption. Adoption has had a deep impact on each of their lives. Karen (Annette Bening) is a bitter, fifty-year-old, health care professional who takes care of her distant, defeatist mother. Karen has never gotten over the loss of the baby girl that her mother forced her give up when she was a teen. Karen's heart has been closed off for so long that she doesn't know how to respond to the attention from the new physical therapist (Jimmy Smits) at work. Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) was adopted by an uncaring couple. Shrouded in protective armer, she has grown up to be a cold, steely lawyer in complete control of her life. When she is hired at a new firm, she uses sex to control her boss and keep him at safe distance. Lucy, (Kerry Washington) a successful baker and loving wife, has failed to conceive with her husband. She is bound and determined to adopt a baby - even if that includes anxiously jumping through hoops created by the baby's birth mother (Shareeka Epps.) This film shows the filial longing and loss caused by breaking the natural bond between mother and child. Some viewers may complain that the fathers are conspicuously absent. The male characters are relegated to supporting roles in the world of, "Mother and Child." It is film for single mothers who made the difficult decision to put their baby up for adoption, the children they lost, and the people who love them. The film is beautifully directed and the plots are all well conceived, though and Oscar nomination must surely be coming Mr Garcias way. i really hope it gets OSCAR nominations though no one is talking about it. Annette Bening is staggeringly brilliant in her role. She's a prickly and largely unappealing character, but the actress brings such humanity to the performance as a woman whose heart is slowly coming to life. Naomi Watts also brings nuance and humanity to a flawed and complex character. Kerry Washington was brilliant too. In a world where characters must always be "likeable," these performances feel like revelations. Direction is consistently sensitive and intelligent. The script deftly moves between three worlds, with intersections that are surprising and never feel forced. If Mother and Child doesn't garner wide distribution (and an Oscar nod for Ms. Bening) then this industry is deeply flawed. Ed Sharmour's musical score adds another dimension to the overall effect of the film. Rodrigo Garcia deserves to be seen more often. He certainly is a talented man that will, no doubt, go to bigger and more important things in the future. Brilliant movie, astonishing great performances. One of the BEST movies of this year, i truly loved it. MUST WATCH this powerful and emotionally charged drama.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Great messages


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