Directed by: #CindyChupack
Written by: Cindy Chupack, #MarkAndrus
Netflix Film Review by: Chris Buick
Based on the book Whatever Makes You Happy by William Sutcliffe, Otherhood follows three mothers, Gillian (Arquette), Helen (Huffman) and Carol (Bassett), who having become friends through their respective sons when they were children, are now living in the Poughkeepsie suburbs in near-empty houses as their boys have grown up and left home. After feeling neglected on Mother’s Day, the three friends decide to venture together into New York City to surprise each son in turn. But in their attempts to discover what their seemingly ungrateful offspring are up to in their own lives, they unwittingly each embark on their own journeys of self-discovery and end up having to face some hard truths.
The shining aspect of Otherhood is undoubtedly the three leads, who turn in performances that you would expect from actors of such calibre. Huffman, Arquette and Bassett bounce off each other effortlessly allowing you to easily believe that these three have in fact been good friends for many years. Each brings a unique shape and feel to their characters but all portray the underlying feeling of heartache from not wanting to become irrelevant in their sons lives, however special mention must go to Felicity Huffman who brilliantly plays both sides of self-entitled, overbearing mother but also someone who just wants to be loved.
The back-and-forth between these characters and indeed the rest of the cast seems fresh and organic, in fact the dialogue throughout is very often witty and funny, including a quick tongue-in-cheek joke about “sagging bridges”, egg-based metaphor and classic mother’s guilt lines (“I birthed you”). All the embarrassing mother tropes are present here; matchmaking, baby photos, questioning girlfriends and judging lifestyles. Mothers with adult sons who have flown the nest will of course relate to a lot of themes of this film and are very much the target demographic here, but these all too familiar moments will be easily recognised by sons as well.
The issue here is that the film unfortunately offers nothing that we don’t already expect to happen, or anything that we haven’t seen done before. There is the inevitable crazy night out montage as these three women try to recapture their youth, as well as a host of awkward encounters that while not unwelcome, play out exactly how you might think. Also, although some third-act revelations provide a real acting tour-de-force to enjoy, for some reason it doesn’t seem to pack the full punch that was perhaps intended.
While Otherhood doesn’t break any new ground and is most definitely intended for a specific audience, it is an endearing character piece driven by three brilliant actresses and it might just want to make you call your mother and see how she’s doing.