Film guru and mother Dominika reflects on her favourite films exploring motherhood.
I’m in the process of planning my next film, which will be on motherhood, and I’ve been reflecting on my favourite films that explore motherhood. Considering that such a profoundly transforming experience is so different for each individual woman, and yet so universal at the same time, I was surprised when I couldn’t think of more than 10 films for this list.
Here are my top three:
Mother and Child (2009)
This is an incredibly powerful film with outstanding acting from a cast that includes, Annette Benning, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by Rodrigo Garcia (son of Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez), it tells three separate stories about the powerful bond between a mother and child. Benning plays a woman who has lived her whole life haunted by the act of giving up her daughter for adoption as a teenage mother. Watts plays an independent and feisty lawyer who falls pregnant after an affair with her boss. Washington is married but can’t conceive with her husband, so she signs up to adopt a child. Mother and child portrays the complexity of these women’s characters while exploring the different aspects of motherhood. The plot weaves all three stories together by the end of the film in a very beautiful way. This is a very well written film, intelligent and thoroughly engaging. A definite must see for all mothers.
Café de Flore (2011)
I found Café de Flore on iTunes while searching for a film to watch one Friday night and after watching it was amazed that I hadn’t heard anything about it prior. The film is quite simply an ode to love, “a love story between a man and woman, and between a mother and her son, a mystical and fantastical odyssey on love”, according to film’s blurb. A Canadian film directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, it stars the gorgeous Vanessa Paradis as the mother of a boy with Down Syndrome. The film moves between two stories; of the single mother and child (set in Paris in the 1960s), and of a man torn between the love for his wife and of another woman with whom he feels a deep connection (set in contemporary Canada). Both stories are linked through their exploration of love – romantic, parental, obsessive, and timeless love. The relationship between Paradis and her child is one of the most touching I’ve seen on film. Gerrier, who plays Paradis’ son, gives a sublime performance.
The ending is surprising and unexpected, and takes this film to a spiritual realm.
Café de Flore is emotionally engaging, thought provoking, beautifully shot, and unforgettable.
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
This film is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, considering it is a melodramatic musical starring Bjork and directed by Lars von Trier. As a rule, I never watch musicals but this film is an exception. It weaves the musical elements in such a contemporary and unique way, that they add to the film rather than distract from the narrative. At the centre of the film is the story of a single mother, who works in a factory (with Catherine Deneuve as her co-worker, no less) but is slowly going blind. She finds out her son will also go blind like her unless he gets an expensive operation to fix his eyes. What follows is tragic and emotionally harrowing, but it is filmmaking at its finest. Bjork is mesmerising and delivers a powerful performance as a mother who will do anything to save her child. This is the only film I never fail to cry in, no matter how many times I see it.
If you have seen a motherhood movie that has touched you, please share.