‘Otherhood’ has three fine actresses playing disgruntled mothers with sons in their late 20s: Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett and Felicity Huffman. It is the feature film debut of director Cindy Chupack, who is best known for being the executive producer and writer of Sex and the City.
The basic idea of this Netflix film had potential. But it disappoints because of its shabby screenplay. Three of the subplots deal with relationships between mothers and sons. The fourth which holds the story together and shows the friendship of the three mothers is the only one that engages the viewer, the characters’ indulgence in self-pity notwithstanding.
The protagonists share an identical complaint. Their grown-up sons don’t pay attention to them. The mothers regret that they have become ‘others’ in their children’s lives. That is heartbreaking and hurts immensely on Mother’s Day when children usually celebrate the role of their mothers with phone calls and gifts.
Gillian (Arquette) is a piano teacher, who has annoyed her wannabe writer-son (Jake Hoffman) by being critical of his former girlfriend. Now, she wants him to ask out a girl who has been divorced recently for ‘no fault’ of hers. Gillian’s is a poorly written role, and there isn’t much Arquette can do to rescue the character and make it interesting.
The nattily dressed Helen (Huffman) is obsessed with the need for holding on to her youth. She is happily remarried but continues to think about her first marriage. Her pony-tailed son (Jake Lacy) lives with his boyfriend. Helen is fine with him being gay but is shattered when she gets to know that he had confided in his father but not her. Huffman is made to overact for her role, an adventure she indulges in without being convincing for a split second.
Carol (Bassett) is a widow whose hair is tied in a bun, a hairstyle she would change and acquire fashionable curls before turning up at a business party where her art director son (Sinqua Walls) has been invited – and where she has no business to go. Carol teaches in an assisted living home twice a week, and she too cannot deal with her womanising son’s indifference towards her. The son, meanwhile, works with a glossy magazine he doesn’t want his mother to know much about.
The sequence showing Carol’s transformation into a glamorous woman brings a smile to one’s face – but that is pretty much all that entertains in this track. Bassett's character is the least badly written one, however, and she does the best she can to deliver a reasonably decent performance.
Otherhood’s biggest weakness is that the story doesn’t offer much beyond the predictable. Saddled with uni-dimensional roles, the three actors playing three sons come up with strictly okay performances. Also, their presence in the story makes one ask why none of the mothers has a daughter. Well, they do not, which is surprising.
So, should you watch Otherhood? You can if you are a fan of Angela Bassett. If not, give it a miss and check out other offerings from Netflix and other OTT platforms. Aren’t you spoilt for choice anyway?