The cinema on many occasions projects a simplified vision of motherhood and thus feeds the myths. However, on the big screen we also find quality works that dare to reflect other sides of the relationship between mothers and children.In the ideal world, motherhood is only a source of positive emotions . The desire to mother is firm and undoubted. Pregnancy and childbirth are experiences full of harmony. Patience, fair. The upbringing, pristine. The mood, stable. Love, unquestionable.
In the real world, things get complicated . Saying that everything is rosy loses its meaning when we assume that mothering has its precious highlights, but also its deep darkness populated by shadows of impotence, frustration, fear, doubts and even pain.
So, what differences are there between real motherhood and motherhood shot by movie cameras? So, are mothers always impeccable at the time of giving birth? Is breastfeeding always a warm and unhindered encounter? Is the news of pregnancy always experienced with deep joy? Is the mother-child bond stable? Anyone who has lived the experience of motherhood knows that the answers are complex .
Real motherhood in the movies
Let’s be honest: motherhood has many faces, it can be beautiful and fun, but also deeply painful. It can be as pretty as a rainbow after a summer storm, but it can also be very unpleasant. The baby’s smile gives us joy, but her crying keeps us awake at night and, in general, her company consumes a good dose of energy.
The story told on the big screen is often biased. However, this is not always the case, and here is a good sample of films that have decided to tell motherhood from a more realistic perspective.
The best foreign film of 2019 (according to the Golden Globes), directed by Alfonso Cuarón, tells the story of a wealthy family in Mexico in the 70s.
Cleo is the domestic worker and caretaker of the children of the home, whom she loves and by whom she is loved. We could say that she plays an essential role in raising the four little ones, since she is in charge of feeding them, taking them to school, putting them to bed and waking them up, while the biological mother is immersed in a marriage as tense as she is absent. . The protagonist must face her own motherhood and is invaded by insecurity, rejection, guilt and fear.
2. Bad mothers
Bad Mothers (2016) discusses and discusses how a mother is required to keep everything under control and systematically put her children’s needs before her own. It is a film to laugh and reflect on the unrealistic pressures and demands that society places on mothers.
Mila Kunis plays Amy, a woman and mother who cares for everyone but herself . She could be considered a prodigious juggler, considering that her life is intertwined with endless tasks and responsibilities that she must fulfill perfectly, and with pointe heels.
3. We need to talk about Kevin
It 's a deeply raw and uncomfortable psychological drama starring Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller. Motherhood here has a problematic and painful essence that goes beyond the limits of what is healthy.
We Have to Talk About Kevin (2011) is the adaptation of the homonymous novel by Lionel Shriver that deals with the dysfunctional bond between a mother who does not love her son , and a son who seems to have developed a manipulative and sociopathic personality since childhood, perhaps by feel that absence of attachment.
Kevin commits atrocities that seem destined to turn his mother’s life into a living hell.
The plot revolves around Juno, a young teenager who becomes pregnant after having sex with a friend. She is faced with decisions that are beyond her maturity level due to her young age, having to evaluate difficult alternatives, such as having a voluntary termination of the pregnancy or giving the baby up for adoption.
This 2007 film directed by Jason Reitman touches on controversial issues such as the desire to mother, not to mother, the supposed maternal instinct and freedom of choice. Without a doubt, this is one of the first films that brings to the table a reality that was hidden for a long time.
5. The Dark Daughter
The dark daughter (2022) proposes to demystify the romanticization of motherhood and reveal cruder stories, but no less likely or impossible for that.
Leda (Olivia Coleman) is a 48-year-old woman who travels alone, although memories of the past torment her and intensify when she establishes a bond with a young mother, with whom she shares a spa on a paradisiacal beach. In the protagonist , her guilt reigns for not having played the role of mother as society expects : she is affectionate, unconditional and willing to give everything.
This film, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, expresses itself with complete honesty in recounting the bond between a teenager in full transition to adult life and her mother, revealing how complex it can be to have a child who goes through this stage.
The protagonist is forging and affirming her identity, which seems to go against the current considering her mother’s beliefs and lifestyle. He truly wants and needs to differentiate himself from her, while staying close to her.
It is an Argentine production co-written and directed by Pablo Trapero and starring Martina Gusmán that deals with motherhood in prison.
This film, full of violence, impotence and anguish, narrates the life of Julia, a woman who discovers that she is pregnant during the medical check-up that is carried out just before entering prison . Her little one is born to her and lives the first years of her life in jail.
On the other hand, in the protagonist’s relationship with her mother, conflicts begin to be reproduced, since the two do not agree on what is best for the little girl.