Sundance 2013 Review: TWO MOTHERS

TWO MOTHERS is director Anne Fontaine's first English language film. Adapted from Doris Lessing's novel, Two Grandmothers, the film adaptation stars Naomi Watts as Lil, Robin Wright as Roz, and Xavier Samuel and James Fencheville as their sons, respectively.

Lil and Roz have been best friends since they were little girls. Now grown, but still living next door to each other, their sons have become best friends as well. They are, essentially, one big family. Their homes hug a hillside overlooking a picturesque bay and small beach on the coast of Australia. Here the Greek God like teenagers surf their days away, while their moms observe them fondly from the beach. Everything seems perfect in their lives - that is, until things suddenly unravel into a crisscrossing, oedipal saga full of intense emotions and unexpected sexual and melodramatic developments.

This film is provocative and troubling, sensual and scandalous, bohemian and modern, and is downright fascinating. The way the story unfolds, forces the audience to question the knee-jerk reaction that most have when presented with the premise of two best friend mothers, sleeping with each other's teenage sons. What at first seemed so wrong, becomes much more entangled and confusing. Is this wrong because there is such an age gap? Is it wrong because they were all friends first? Is it wrong because Lil and Roz are like second mother's to each other's children, even if there is no biological relation?

Suddenly, the blanket argument against this love "x" starts to fray. Moments where all of the characters seem truly happy pull at the strings of stigma until this extraordinarily uncommon arrangement of lovers seems like it could not only be acceptable, but could even be practical, quotidian and good. Of course, in a film as morally complex as this, there are many interpretations. I could easily see the moments that made me feel the most accepting, being the most off-putting for someone else. There were moment's that many in the audience laughed at, which I found deeply sad and visa versa.

There are too few movies for mature people, that don't spoon feed you the answers. Two Mothers is one of the rare few that lets you think for yourself. There is plenty to discuss while exiting the theater and plenty to ponder for days on.

Two Mothers is not without it's flaws though. Much of the dialogue is clunky and too on the nose. Many of the big narrative and emotional beats of the story are expressed with either a way too heavy hand or with a casualness that fells less than truthful in the reality of the scene. At times this turns tender moments into comedic ones - unintentionally so.

That being said, Two Mothers is provocative and engrossing. Many films are referred to as "provocative" when all really have is something sensational, there for its own sake. However, Two Mothers pushes its audience into intellectual rabbit holes. It provokes the viewer sexually and emotionally and philosophically. If you want to see a movie that treats you like an adult, that is full of talented actors and locations that are as easy on the eyes as the subject matter is uncomfortable and mind mending, then this is a film for you.

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