Movie: “Otherhood”; Cast: Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett, Felicity Huffman, Jake Hoffman, Sinqua Walls and Jake Lacy; Rating: **** (4 stars)
To call it a rom-com would be doing this ebullient film a disservice. This coming-of-age comedy-drama about three mothers who feel abandoned by their respective sons and who come to the severe and sobering awareness that after a point, children don’t need their parents to be around them constantly, is no sob story.
What could have been a mushy maudlin my-kids-don’t-love-me ode to abandoned motherhood is turned into a light bubbly deft and dishy ‘dramedy’ with the correct quotient of cuteness and gravity.
“Otherhood” is a smartly packaged film with some truly empathetic performances particularly by the still-gorgeous Angela Bassett whose presence and performance simply knock the b*** out of the recreational park to give the film a tilt towards something much more than entertainment. Unfortunately, her troubled relationship with her son (Sinqua Walls) doesn’t have the same immediacy and resonance as the other two mother-son relationships.
Felicity Huffman’s role as the mother of a gay son displays a rare maturity and vision in the way she handles her son’s sexual orientation and then even strikes up a heartwarming friendship with her son’s partner while she’s visiting. There is no big self-congratulatory coming-out sequence. In fact there is a fabulous dinner table sequence where the gay son (played with refreshing lack of affectation by Jake Lacy) asks his mother why gay people need to announce their orientation when heterosexuals don’t.
My favourite mother-son relationship in the expertly interwoven tale of three relationships is between Patricia Arquette and her lately heartbroken son played by the great Dustin Hoffman’s son Jake Hoffman. With a personality that renders itself effectively to vulnerability, Jake proves himself quite a chip off the old block.
The writing is sharp. The verbal exchanges ripple with warmth and humour. Very often I laughed uproariously as these mothers and their sons sounded like people I’ve known very closely.
About three-quarters into the film, the plot loses its mojo and it seems the director doesn’t quite know where all this will end. Never mind. “Otherhood” has so much to give and so little to quibble about. It’s a film flush with a fund of cleverness and joy.
There are no bad guys and good guys, only real people in this abnormally edifying film that tells us why parents need to grow up as they grow older.