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Motherhood (2009)

Release Date:
Friday, October 23, 2009

MPAA Rating:
PG-13

Rating Reason:
Language, sexual references and a brief drug comment.

Genre:
Drama

Starring:
Uma Thurman, Anthony Edwards, Minnie Driver, Samantha Bee

Written By:
Katherine Dieckmann

Director:
Katherine Dieckmann

Synopsis:
In Manhattan, a mother of two preparing for her daughter's sixth birthday party has no idea of the challenges she's about to face in order to pull off the event.

Motherhood (2009) | Review

Sacrifices of Love
Elisabeth Leitch

Content Image
What do you get when you take away Uma Thurman's make-up and shower, give her two young children and an elderly dog, put her in a small upper-floor New York City apartment, and give her only one day to put together her daughter's 6th birthday party and write an essay on what it means to be a mother—all while having to deal with street sweepers, flat tires, movie crews, a husband who isn't answering his cell phone, and an overly flirtatious bike messenger? It may sound like your worst nightmare, your last Friday, a mess you wouldn't even want to touch with a ten foot pole, or an inside joke that reminds you that you're not alone&ellips; but it's actually Katherine Dieckmann's newest film Motherhood. And best described as a comic mess of NYC parenting that comes together in a heartfelt end, while it is at times a bit much parental drama to handle, in the end, both its laughs and its tears deliver a good, solid smile.

With about two thirds of the film devoted to a wide variety of comic catastrophe that Thurman's Eliza encounters while trying to finish her mile-long to-do list, Motherhood is a film that often feels like an extended sitcom. As Eliza scrambles to try to get her kids out the door in her nightgown, we smile. As she chews out the film crew that has towed her car and the young man lecturing her on her carbon footprint at the party store, we laugh. But as Eliza's day is rapidly eaten up by the tasks of motherhood, we see that while the comical situations that make up her day may be funny to the outsider, they are wearing her down. Cue the film's dramatic side, the honest questions and struggles that all its comedy raises, and the better part of its last third.

As is deftly foreshadowed by the film's opening sequence in which Eliza's wakes up and begins her day without us catching a glimpse her face for over a minute, alongside the comedy that comes with being a mother also comes a struggle of identity and value. When Eliza and her friends laugh at the alternatives one of them resorts to due to her lacking sex life, so is also broached the difficult reality of the changing dynamics in romantic relationships once children enter the picture. As Eliza's attempts to fit in five minutes of writing on her essay only to continue to be interrupted, Eliza spells out her frustration with not being able to have both a full-fledged career and a full-fledged family life—as well as the nagging implication that she is lesser for only being able to fit in one—for all the blogosphere to read. And when a brief moment calls her back into her past, into a time when she was considered a rising literary star and a woman who was desired by many men, we see in her a sense of loss between the woman she once was and the woman she now is.

But then, even as she finds herself on the verge of leaving all the trials of motherhood behind, she turns back around. Although the burdens of her day begin to make her feel confined in an identity and a life that is not what she dreamed of for herself, in an instant, she chooses both over anything else. Although what she daily gives up for her family cannot be denied, she is reminded that her own sacrifices are also supported by the sacrifices of others (aka, her husband). And as her day and the film come to an end, the picture we are left with is one in which sacrifice is transformed from a token of loss and guilt to a gift of love and freedom.

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