Dave's Rating:

3.5

It is trying to break your heart.

Who's In It: Annette Bening, Kerry Washington, Naomi Watts, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Elpidia Carillo, Cherry Jones, Shareeka Epps, David Morse

The Basics: A crisscrossing patchwork of stories, all of them sharing the common themes of adoption and the bonds of love--including a lot of pain--between mothers and their children. Bitter, brittle Annette Bening searches for the adult daughter she gave up as a teenager, just as that daughter (Naomi Watts) prepares to give birth to her own child. Childless Kerry Washington tries to bond with the combative young single pregnant woman (Shareeka Epps) who plans to give her her baby. Meanwhile there are men, housekeepers, nuns and--for reasons never explained--wise blind teenagers crossing the already complicated paths of the ladies in question. It's kind of like if Love, Actually were about Mother's Day and also really into making you wet up a whole box of Kleenex.

What's The Deal: Wanna really turn the crank on your mom's tear supply and watch her ruin her makeup? Think that's what you're doing to do to her this Mother's Day? Well watch out, you awful manipulative hellspawn, because this movie will sneak up on you and turn you into a blubbering mess as well. You'll get as good as you give. That's because unlike a lot of the phony, glibly cynical tearjerkers Hollywood churns out, there's big beating heart slapped right on this movie's sleeve and it doesn't care if you walk in thinking you're a tough customer and too hard inside to let it shred you. Trust me, the movie will win. Best of all, it'll accomplish that task without a lot of noise and fakery, which will just make you resent it all the more.

What's Wrong With It:There are about half a dozen too many characters quietly moping their way through it and it could stand to not be so butt-numbingly long. The people speak a little too concisely and meaningfully as they flesh out the intentionally moving speeches of a screenwriter. There are too many convenient Crash-like connections, as if Los Angeles were populated by exactly 25 people. And visually there's not much going on at all. It looks like a TV movie. But...

What's Right With It: It lives in an emotional world that doesn't shy away from the uncomfortable, one where human beings experience actual loss and regret, where they don't get everything they want by the time the end credits roll. And best of all it stars actors committed to elevating what could have turned into straight-up soap into something much more true. Annette Bening, in particular, might be the first actor I've seen in a long time who convinced me of actual character growth and change (something I normally despise), one who begins the film comically brittle and angry and winds up... actually I won't spoil it. But she will break your heart if you've got one.

Typecast/Not Typecast: Broadway veteran Cherry Jones plays another nun here, just like she did as the dictatorial dragon of the original stage version of Doubt. Meanwhile, taking a break from his usual brand of movie, Sam Jackson spends most of his time making out with Naomi Watts and not shouting at a single person with a gun. Or at a snake.

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