As we celebrate Mother's Day, it's important to acknowledge the diverse experiences of motherhood. These films not only explore the joys and challenges of raising children, but also delve into the complexities of relationships between mothers and their families.
From classic Hollywood films like Mildred Pierce and Imitation of Life to more contemporary films like Parallel Mothers, Lady Bird and The Kids Are All Right, this collection of movies proves that there's no one way to experience motherhood.
Whether you're in the mood for a touching drama or a gripping noir, A.frame has selected a few thought-provoking films that showcase the many intricacies of motherhood.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Based on James Baldwin's 1974 novel of the same name, If Beale Street Could Talk follows Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), a young couple expecting their first child together under trying circumstances. Fonny has been arrested for a crime that he did not commit, and Tish, with her family’s support, sets out to clear his name. The 2018 romantic drama, directed by Barry Jenkins, was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Supporting Actress for Regina King. King won the Oscar for her performance.
Oscar winner Halle Berry made her directorial debut with this sports drama, in which she also stars as Jackie Justice, a disgraced UFC fighter forced to confront her own demons. When the son she gave up as an infant is suddenly dropped off at her doorstep as a 6-year-old, Jackie has to come to terms with her past, learn how to be a mother to the child she left behind, and get back in the ring to build a better future.
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Imitation of Life
Douglas Sirk's melodrama Imitation of Life explores the complexities of motherhood from two perspectives, that of Lora (Lana Turner), an aspiring white actress, and Annie (Juanita Moore), a Black widow who becomes the caretaker of Lora’s daughter. Throughout the film, both women deal with challenges in raising their daughters, as Lora’s career threatens her relationship with her child (Sandra Dee), and Annie’s light-skinned daughter (Susan Kohner) struggles with her African-American identity. Moore and Kohner both earned Oscar nominations (for Best Supporting Actress) for their performances in the 1959 film.
The Kids Are All Right
A lesbian couple’s relationships with their teenage children and each other is thrown off balance in this 2010 comedy-drama, starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska. When the kids locate and reach out to their parents’ anonymous sperm donor, they set off a chain reaction they couldn’t have seen coming. Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right received four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
The complex relationship between a high school senior (Saoirse Ronan) in 2002 and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) takes center stage in Lady Bird, which was written and directed by Academy member Greta Gerwig in her solo directorial debut. While Lady Bird’s mother doesn’t approve of her longing to attend a college in "a city with culture" far from home, it’s clear the two have more in common than they realize — and not just in their stubbornness. Lady Bird was nominated for five Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Metcalf), and Best Original Screenplay).
The 1985 Peter Bogdanovich drama Mask tells the true story of Roy L. "Rocky" Dennis, a boy who had craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, a rare bone disorder that may lead to severe deformity, and a mother (Cher) who was determined to give her son as normal a life as possible. Though Rocky’s (Eric Stoltz) appearance makes it difficult for him to fit in, he finds his place in his mother’s biker gang family, and acceptance from those who mean most. Mask co-starred Sam Elliott and Laura Dern, and won the Oscar for Best Makeup.
Joan Crawford stars in Mildred Pierce as a hardworking mother determined to start over on her own after her husband leaves her for another woman. Though her foray into the restaurant business leads to financial success, her spoiled daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) resents her for degrading their social status — and their relationship only gets more complicated from there. The 1945 Michael Curtiz noir was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Crawford won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance.
With their sons out of the house and living their own lives in New York City, three best friends realize their motherly responsibilities are no longer what they once were. So, feeling forgotten on Mother’s Day, they travel to the big city to reconnect with their adult children — and find themselves in a new phase of life. Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette and Felicity Huffman star in Cindy Chupack's 2019 comedy, which was based on the 2008 novel Whatever Makes You Happy by William Sutcliffe.
Written and directed by Academy member Pedro Almodóvar, Parallel Mothers explores the bond between two women’s foray into motherhood at different stages in their lives. Janis (Penélope Cruz) is excited to give birth, while Ana (Milena Smit) is younger and scared of what’s ahead. Their time together in the hospital forms a bond between them as they enter this complicated new phase of their lives. Parallel Mothers was nominated for two Oscars: Best Actress (Cruz) and Best Original Score.
Judi Dench and Steve Coogan star in this 2013 drama, which is based on the true story of Philomena Lee's 50-year search for the son she was forced to give up as a young woman, and journalist Martin Sixsmith's efforts to help her find him. The Stephen Frears film, adapted from Sixsmith’s 2009 book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress (Dench).
Written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón — and semi-based on his upbringing in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City — Roma tells the story of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a live-in housekeeper dealing with her own life and pregnancy in the early '70s while caring for the children of an upper middle-class family. Roma was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The drama won Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film (now known as Best International Film), Best Director, and Best Cinematography.
Disney Pixar’s latest film tells the coming-of-age story of Mei Lee, a girl learning to find herself as many 13-year-olds do — except that she turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets nervous or excited. This challenge adds to an already complicated adolescence for Mei, who feels torn between embracing the chaos of her youth and being her mother's obedient daughter. Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and more provide the voices for this charming animated comedy.
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