Who's In It: Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Cherry Jones, David Ramsey, Jimmy Smits, S. Epatha Merkerson, Shareeka Epps, David Morse, Tatyana Ali, Marc Blucas, Amy Brenneman, Ahmed Best, Britt Robertson, Lisa Gay Hamilton
The Basics: Three decades ago an awkward teenage tryst led to pregnancy, leaving the 14 year old young mother with few options. Fast forward to the present, when emotionally distant Karen (Annette Bening) struggles with her guilt over pulling a Juno way back when, while the daughter she gave up for adoption (Naomi Watts) deals with her mommy issues by wielding sex as a weapon over all the men in her life, including her lover-slash-boss (Samuel L. Jackson). Elsewhere in Los Angeles, a yuppie African-American woman who can't conceive (Kerry Washington) has her heart set on adopting a surly teenager's (Shareeka Epps) unborn baby in order to complete her perfect marriage and fulfill her maternal destiny as a woman.
What's the Deal: Intensely emotional performances keep Rodrigo García's often soapy melodrama afloat, although the film's superfluous plotting bogs it right back down. Then again, if you've seen García's earlier work (Nine Lives, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her), you should already expect a multi-strand story about interconnected strangers whose lives are tied together by overarching, achingly human themes. (Possible explanation for García's melodramatic streak: his father is Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez.) Unfortunately, while García's three main characters are individually complex and interesting, each carrying her own psychological trauma from the lack of the magical, traditional mother-child bond in her life, the meandering route that García takes to bring them all together feels tired and forced. Will all three damaged women collide, a la Crash, in a complicated maelstrom of intertwining sub-plots? Will you need a box of tissues to soak up your emotionally-manipulated tears? The answer to both questions is yes, for better and for worse.
What Hits Home: The way in which each woman is affected by -- indeed, devastated by -- her broken connection to life's great miracle, and the believably heart-wrenching pain they all go through in acknowledging the impact said void has left on their lives. As he's proven before, García has an uncanny knack for hitting women where it hurts most: in their ovaries.
Who Gets The Most Mileage Out of Their Parts: Bening, Watts, and Washington are all powerful in their central roles (although the film short-changes Washington for a spell as it focuses way too much on her co-stars' storylines) but others squeeze a lot of impact out of fleeting screen time. Sam Jackson, who also appears in the competing weekend flick Iron Man 2, shows his tender side with Naomi Watts' Elizabeth and the two get kinky in a power-shifting sex scene. Shareeka Epps (Half Nelson) owns her crackling scenes opposite Washington's prissy Lucy. Judd Apatow regular Carla Gallo provides peppy comic relief as an annoying obnoxious neighbor. Tatyana Ali gets a shout out just for showing up.
Random Star Wars Link: Three cast members appeared in the Star Wars prequel films: Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Jimmy Smits (Senator Bail Organa), and Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks). Yes, Jar Jar is in Mother & Child. Bring your light sabers!
And By The Way, Ladies: If you weren't ovulating before the movie, you will be by the time the credits roll. I guess that makes this the perfect weepy Mother's Day movie, although if you'd rather not wind up sobbing your way out of the theater plan on seeing the feel good doc Babies instead.