Mother and Child

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Mother and Child Movie Poster Image
Adoption drama probes complex anger, heartbreak, hope.
  • R
  • 2010
  • 125 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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. Adopt... Continue reading

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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.

Talk to your kids 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

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