Fortunately writer-director Garcia is very careful to avoid wallowing in sentimentality.
Elizabeth (Watts) is a shark-like lawyer who easily seduces her new boss Paul (Jackson). She's had a difficult emotional life, and prefers to keep things under control, managing her friendships and relationships with icy distance.
Meanwhile, Karen (Bening) is still struggling with the fact that she gave up her baby at age 14, although a colleague (Smits) encourages her to do register at the adoption agency to contact her daughter. And a young couple (Washington and Ramsay) is now looking to adopt a baby from an independently minded pregnant 20-year-old (Epps).
It's clear from the start that Elizabeth is Karen's long-lost daughter, although how the third story will connect is rather more difficult to predict.
But the script never plays on surprises, rather it is a warm and intimate exploration of several tough women, often in interaction with their strong-willed mothers. And it approaches the idea of motherhood from several angles even as a slightly over-serious tone continually reminds us that we're not heading for a smiley, happy ending.
The high-powered cast is enormously watchable, and each actor dives into his or her character fully, often surprising us in some darkly emotional moments. At the centre, Watts, Bening and Washington all shine as complex women whose lives take some startling turns. And the supporting actresses get solid moments too.
While Jackson shines in a surprisingly warm role, the men far less well. They all give solid performances, even though the script sidelines the male characters when its done with them.
This is, after all, a movie about the resilience of women, and specifically mothers. And while it kind of mythologises the bond of a birth-mum, while playing a little dangerously with the whole adoption process, it's also a film that isn't afraid to dive into uncomfortable or downright wrenching places. And the final act is such a rollercoaster of sad, happy and sweet moments that we feel a bit wrung out at the end. In a good way.
Run time: 125 mins
In Theaters: Friday 2nd July 2010
Box Office USA: $1.1M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Production compaines: Mockingbird Pictures, Everest Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 93 Rotten: 25
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Screenwriter: Rodrigo Garcia
Starring: Naomi Watts as Elizabeth, Samuel L. Jackson as Paul, Annette Bening as Karen, Carla Gallo as Tracy, Kerry Washington as Lucy, David Morse as Tom, Amy Brenneman as Dr. Stone, Britt Robertson as Violet, Marc Blucas as Steven, Tatyana Ali as Maria, Jimmy Smits as Paco, Cherry Jones as Sister Joanne, S. Epatha Merkerson as Ada, Elpidia Carrillo as Sofia, Lisa Gay Hamilton as Leticia, Eileen Ryan as Nora, David Ramsey as Joseph, Ahmed Best as Julian, LaTanya Richardson as Carol, Shareeka Epps as Ray, Gloria Garayua as Melissa
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