Annette Bening stars in a new drama about three women whose lives are all dramatically affected by adoption. The film illustrates how strong the mother and child relationship is and how three strangers can be tied so intimately by similar circumstances. The film is called Mother and Child and it is written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia. Annette Bening and he were available for a short chat and shared their thoughts on the film and the characters.
Wearing a fashionable, earth-toned pantsuit and sporting a feathery, pixie hairdo, Annette Bening sat down and almost immediately complemented the much more casual Rodrigo Garcia. “I’m going to feel like I’m going to be embarrassing him by singing his praises,” Bening opened, “but I’m going to do it anyway!” She laughed.
Her character, Karen, is a middle-aged woman who became pregnant at 14 and gave up her daughter for adoption immediately after birth. The experience changed her life forever and has given her a kind of closed-off, yet needy personality. Bening addressed that duality. “That’s in the writing, right? So what you’re pointing out – that paradox – it’s in the writing, so that immediately attracted me because it’s hard to find that. Of course it’s also nervous making as well, because you see it and you see the potential that’s there and then you think: well, I hope I can find that. If I didn’t know where it was going it’d probably be unbearable – some of the painful sequences. When it’s all on the page and you know that it’s there then you’re basically trying to follow what’s already there. I think the scars make sense. I believed her.”
While Bening performed her research for Karen as a middle-aged woman, she does recall a real life experience with a girl she knew when she was a teenager. “I can remember one girl…I’d known since we were very little and we actually ended up going through school together. Gorgeous girl. Really vivacious. What I remember is that thing of: ‘What happened to her?’ Because you were never really told explicitly what happened and suddenly she was gone. Well, she got sent away because she got pregnant. So the legacy of that is what I had to try to understand as best I could. So that got me into the present of the film – somebody who’d been through that [experience] who in some ways had been paralyzed by it.”
The character of Karen is a very good role that allows an actor to really showcase her talents. When it comes to finding well-written roles, Bening noted, “Well I’ve been lucky and I have a family so I don’t work all the time. I try to be pretty selective.”
“Picky,” Rodrigo corrected and they both laughed. Still, Bening is happy having the choice to stop and start as she pleases, acting in film or on stage.
One of the more impressive aspects of the film is the fact that this uniquely female experience was written and directed by a man. Garcia quickly addressed that observation. “I was going to say that I don’t think it’s that female,” he says, happy that he caught himself. “I started writing [the film] when my children were little, so I was new to discovering the strength of that attachment, which I think particularly with your first baby there’s a day that it’s a little scary. On the one hand there was that bond. On the other hand I’ve always been interested in people who live their lives in the longing of an absent one. Whether it was someone who had died or someone who moved away or lovers that split up.” Garcia elaborated further, explaining that everyone understood these bonds and accepted them. Mother and child bonds were especially strong. “One of the reasons I made Karen so young when she had the baby was so that it was clear that she had not made an informed choice – that it was thrust upon her. The cruelty of being 14, making a 15-minute mistake still waking you up at night 35 years later. This was potentially powerful.”
Hopefully you’ll feel the same way when Mother and Child opens.