Mother’s Day is fast approaching, which means you’re probably running to find a last-minute gift or trying to forget the day altogether. Moms are complicated but that’s why we love them, and movies about them. Through film, maybe we can better understand our moms, or at least see them from a different perspective. That’s why for this Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating moms across genres with a list of films that feature good moms, bad moms and moms that are a little bit of both.
Set in 1979 Sacramento, “20th Century Women” follows Dorothea (Annette Benning), a single mom raising her teenage son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) while running a boarding house. So she enlists the help of tenant Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and teenage neighbor Julie (Elle Fanning) to raise him. It’s a film looking at three generations of women, what motherhood means to them, and the strange relationships we have with our moms.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” is one of the most beautiful movies ever made about family. It’s also one of the saddest. In the film, a poor Japanese family finds a young girl in the cold. While they barely have enough money to scrape by, they still take her in as part of their family. Sakura Ando plays mother Nobuyo who, no matter what the circumstances, provides for her children, biological or otherwise. And that means she and her husband have to make some rather ethically dubious decisions to keep their family unit together. She’s a mother figure that you both empathize with and want to absolutely scream at as you see her hurtling towards disaster.
Greta Gerwig’s solo feature film debut cut those of us with curt and brutally honest mothers to the core. While predominantly a comedy about Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) trying to navigate her senior year of high school, it dips into dark territory as Ladybird struggles to please her mom Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Lady Bird wants to live her own life but she always wants her mom to approve of that life. If you want to cry this Mother’s Day, wait until one of the final scenes where Marion won’t say goodbye to her daughter at the airport.
Dee Dee Blanchard was a single mom raising her sick daughter, Gypsy Rose, who needed a feeding tube, couldn’t walk, and was diagnosed with a wide range of illnesses, from muscular dystrophy to leukemia. But, it was all a lie. Dee Dee suffered from Munchausen by proxy, a condition where a parent will purposefully make their child sick as a means of getting attention. After years of undergoing unnecessary surgeries, Gypsy takes back her agency and murders her mother with her boyfriend. This documentary chronicles the events leading up and the aftermath of Dee Dee’s murder, and features interviews with both Gypsy and her boyfriend.
If you’re working through your intergenerational trauma particularly as it pertains to your mom’s side of the family, then Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” is the perfect Mother’s Day viewing experience. Following Annie Graham (Toni Collette) after the death of her mother, something strange begins haunting her family. Annie soon realizes that what her mother left her in inheritance was something much more evil than money or jewelry. But even that aside, Annie is also trying to process her grief for a life ruined by a commandeering mother. Plus, Annie’s “I Am Your Mother” speech is particularly chilling and speaks not only to a mother’s resentment but her deep sadness.