There’s a subject that every woman of child rearing age will have brought up to them on a regular basis: motherhood. Approaching my thirties hasn’t stopped questions I receive from acquaintances, co-workers, distant family members etc. about my decisions regarding having children and getting married. Based off the answers I get when I respond with “I don’t want to get married and I don’t want children” I appear to be either unsure of what I really want, heartless or ‘waiting for the right man’. Everyone seems to have their viewpoints on motherhood which inevitably leads into discussions of what makes a woman a woman. It can get incredibly contentious when individuals have their own viewpoints and no one can just simply agree to disagree. Conservative “family values” would decry folks like me for allegedly being selfish. Whilst not on the same scale at all, some folks get uncalled vitriol for choosing to live a more traditional lifestyle. This sort of theme is one of the things explored in the film Motherhood.
Motherhood is a relatively simple film that explores the dynamics of two married couples who’ve taken very different routes when it comes to child rearing. Married Wayne and Tina (played by Gbenga Akinnagbe and Alysia Reiner) have chosen to use a surrogate called Kiki (played by Anna Camp) whilst a pregnant Karen and her husband Don (played by Christina Hendricks & David Alan Basche) have gone down the normative way. What follows is a clash of ideas not just on child rearing but on relationships, careers and more. The arguments aren’t just limited to couple vs couple as the couples themselves have issues to address. What’s enjoyable about the theme explorations in Motherhood is that no one is shown to be completely right. Tina comes across as a self-righteous woman who may be coming from the right place but is too set in herself. Karen turns her nose at her friend’s less-than-upper-class lifestyle yet is projecting an image to mask her own insecurities and issues in her marriage. The characters, especially Karen and Tina, are quite well rounded and fleshed out nicely in spite of the limited location and 90 minute run time. The narrative is an explorative character-driven piece that leaves the audience with plenty of food for thought whether they’re set in their viewpoints or still contemplating their own paths.
If there is something I have to criticise Motherhood for it’s for doing what a lot of Mum-oriented films do: focus on upper middle class people. I commend the film for depicting an interracial couple without resorting to racial stereotypes or even making a fuss over it. That doesn’t do much to mitigate my difficulty relating to characters who’ve got enough money to buy and maintain a two-story flat or buy whole apartment buildings to rent out especially when they complain about money. It can be seen as trying to appeal to a middle-class suburban crowd but for the vast majority of other audience members who don’t fit that category it can come off as off-putting. For once I’d love to see a film that authentically depicts a working class couple trying to raise children without fetishising poverty or making them criminals. It’s not the fault of the cast and crew behind Motherhood but it’s a trend in Western cinema that would be amazing to buck.
A character-driven narrative with a lot to say, Motherhood is a film that’s worth watching especially if you’re thinking of expecting.
Dir: Marianna Palka
Scr: Risa Mickenberg
Starring: Christina Hendricks, Alysia Reiner, David Alan Basche, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Anna Camp
Prd: David Alan Basche, Michelle Gainless, Alysia Reiner
DoP: Zelmira Gainza
Music: Jamie Jackson
Runtime: 90 mins
Motherhood is available On Demand now.