Otherhood (2019)

“I was a girl before I was your mother.”

What’s most disappointing about Otherhood – besides wasting the time of its three talented leading ladies – is that the film has a few touching observations about the parent child relationship tucked inside a story with no real motivation, depth, or overall purpose. And as is becoming all the more apparent as Netflix continues to churn out one unoriginal flick after another, the movie seems to have been made with little care or concern, giving us yet another bland streaming option that’s better suited as background noise than it is as a planned night in with company. Otherhood has good intent, but has no idea of how to properly put its affection on display.

The setup is simple and the aftermath is bewilderingly bleary. Otherhood focuses on three women on Mother’s Day, friends ever since their now grown up sons were little playmates. Carol Walker (Angela Bassett) still lives in the big family home all by her lonesome. Gillian Lieberman (Patricia Arquette) teaches piano lessons to feel like less of an empty nester. Helen Halston (Felicity Huffman) is remarried but still holding onto the past. They all share the same plight, which is that their sons have all become too distant. Matt Walker (Sinqua Walls) works round the clock, Daniel Lieberman (Jake Hoffman) is a heartbroken and aspiring writer with a drinking problem, and Paul Halston (Jake Lacy) is a window dresser who hasn’t come out to his mom. Feeling dejected and forgotten, the ladies decide that if their boys can’t remember to celebrate them, they’ll just have to force their way back in.

There’s a decent story to tackle here, especially in a society where texts have overtaken phone calls and FaceTime chats replaced surprise visits. And that the film is about three women trying to understand / be understood by three men of a different generation brings up an interesting dynamic in how both sides can see things from wildly different perspectives. I really appreciated that about Otherhood. However, the movie meanders far too much in the middle, especially during the entirely unnecessary party sequences and the cringe-worthy big fight we can see coming from a mile away. The characters here are defined by what they do or don’t do, and the forced situations never help to humanize them or help us to know them. We’re watching real people play implausible people, saying dialogue so empty and lacking individuality. Every living person has a unique voice, and yet Otherhood speaks in an awkward, uniform cadence. I’ve honestly never heard people talk this way before.

Otherhood has a few emotionally honest scenes – jumping to mind is one in a park where feelings are shared, and another where Matt mails his mother Carol flowers with a note – which are tacked on in the final act. Needless to say though, these moments don’t make up for all of the wasted time that came before in writer/director Cindy Chupack’s clumsy feature. This is a picture with a bare-bones plot, no real story to tell, and one that features countless scenes set to the kind of phony muzak you’d hear playing in elevators and shopping malls and dollar stores. Similarly, Otherhood has great actresses trying to make the best out of an all too familiar tune, and is almost instantly forgettable.

“Your life is your life and mine is mine.”

Rating: 2 out of 5

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