Mother’s Day: Mary’s Top 6 Movies About Moms

by May 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,794 0

Mary Burgan, Borderstan Movie Fan

From Mary Burgan. Email her at mary[AT]

You can get lists of movies about mothers on line, but that’s no fun. The fun comes from thinking back over all the films you’ve actually seen to consider the mothers in them. You’ll probably remember a character who embrace the role of mother eagerly.

Or reluctantly, as Shirley MacLaine observes in Terms of Endearment, “Why should I be happy about being a grandmother?” Of course, MacLaine is on my list as one of the unforgettable mothers and grandmothers in the movies I’ve seen.

So start your own list now. You might buy one of those films for your ma. Or you might look at one of the movies on your list once again,  then call to thank Mom for being the kind of mother, or not, that you’ve seen.

Almodovar sums it up at the end of his movie: “To all actresses who have played actresses. To all women who act. To men who act and become women. To all the people who want to be mothers. To my mother.”

Let me get you started with a good half dozen movies for Mother’s Day, and then you can add your own. Do that in the comments section, and give a sentence or two about your choice.

  1. My all-time top movie for Mother’s Day is Two Women (1960), starring a Sofia Loren who bears no resemblance to the fashion plate associated with the European highlife of the 1970’s and 80’s. She is no fashion model in this classic Vittorio de Sica film, but a tough survivor intent on preserving her daughter in a brutal world at war. I have never forgotten the climactic scene in this film — one that brought Loren the first Academy Award for best acting of an actress in a foreign language (Italian) film.
  2. Shirley MacLaine Is an equally fierce as the mother of Debra Winger (and the grandmother of her children) in David Brooks’ Terms of Endearment (1983). Otherwise, she is a flighty woman, bound by the rigid mores of her southern culture. And Debra Winger is terrific too as a mother who forces her oldest son to tell her he loves her to safeguard him from regrets when he gets older. Both women were nominated for Oscars for this movie. MacLaine won.
  3.  Cicely Tyson is fierce but silent in Sounder (1972). She compensates for her husband’s absence,  though she never seeks to replace him within her share-cropping family. She merely dominates the film with the stillness of her resolve to keep the family together. I’ll never forget the look of dawning happiness on her suffering face when she hears that her husband has come home at last.
  4.  Anywhere but Here (1999) is a Susan Sarandon movie that also introduces the teen-age Natalie Portman as a fine actress. Sarandon’s enactment of feckless but insistently caring motherhood lingers. And so does Portman’s rejection of her — a reaction against the mother that just barely, in the last moment, relents.
  5.  All About My Mother (1999) is one of the great foreign films on my list. The somewhat confusing narration in Almodovar’s  kaleidoscopic Spanish film is  tragic, or is it comic?  It introduces Penelope Cruz as a pregnant nun after all and it follows a number of other characters from the stage and from the borderland between male and female. Finally, I realized that it was primarily a celebration of the many roles a truly mothering woman may take with children other than her own.
  6.  I’ve just seen Mother (Madeo, 2009) a recent film from South Korea, because I wanted to observe motherhood from another culture, one far removed from my own. The film is about a poor mother in a provincial Korean town who turns to extremes in defending her mentally slow son from a murder charge. The plot of this film shows the influence of American CSI television, but the portrayal of the determined, though confused mother by Kim Hye-ja is unforgettable. By the end of this long and demanding film, I concluded that mamas are the same all over the world. And each one is unique.

Almodovar sums it up at the end of his movie: “To all actresses who have played actresses. To all women who act. To men who act and become women. To all the people who want to be mothers. To my mother.”

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