In his latest project, prolific director Gary Marshall has returned to make a film in the spirit of his previous successes “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve.” This newest addition is “Mother’s Day.” He has once again succeeded in bringing together a star-studded ensemble cast to play characters who have complex, intertwining relationships. Audiences will enjoy discovering this web of connections as the story progresses.
The writing succeeds in captivating viewers with personal and real-life issues that people face daily. The film addresses deeply emotional familial issues like divorce, the loss of a parent or partner, insecurity about marriage, a daughter’s trying to reunite with her biological mother, and sisters’ trying to making amends with their parents. Each moment is brought to life on screen by the cast in a way that is honest, relatable and believable.
The film takes place the weekend before Mother’s Day as audiences are introduced to the main characters: Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), Miranda (Julia Roberts) and Jesse (Kate Hudson).
Bradley is a father who is trying to do the best for his children after they lose their mother, but his overbearing approach to parenting makes it difficult for them to move on and adjust to their mother’s death. Sandy is a mother who discovers her ex-husband will be marrying a much younger woman. Miranda is a workaholic who acts like her career is her offspring and has a secret that has only been divulged to those close to her. Jesse is a woman who hides the identities of her husband and son to avoid judgment from her prejudiced parents.
Beyond these four main characters is a wider set of secondary characters who are each intertwined in the broader group and take part in this massive web of tangled and complicated interrelationships — the signature approach of a Garry Marshall film.
Central to the film’s storytelling are intimate moments where these characters have serendipitous encounters with strangers who change their perspectives and make them re-evaluate their lives.
In one such scene, Sandy has a conversation with a clown she has hired for a party for her boys. The party was part of a strategy to win her boys back and make an impression on her ex-husband and his new wife. As Sandy rambles about her marital problems in the kitchen, the clown, in full garb, consoles her by telling her that when it comes to parenting, nothing is better than a mother’s unconditional love for her children. Throughout her journey, Sandy uses comedy to get through difficult situations and is consequently a source of comedic relief.
The film’s complex weave of relationships has no obvious starting point, like a tangled ball of yarn. The director has the viewers jump in and get to know the characters, and in doing so, the viewers can begin to assimilate their connected storylines and visualize those connections. Because the focus falls on a multitude of characters, there were scenes that cut away too quickly at the beginning and would have benefited from lingering on screen a little longer. The film is quickly redeemed as the story progresses and audiences come to understand each character’s connection to the others.
As a whole, this film is endearingly sweet, light-hearted and packed with moments of laughter. It contains intimate scenes that are melancholy in the moment yet hopeful about the future. If audiences are looking for a film with award-winning trappings and must-see scenes, then this is not the right choice. If they are hoping to see a film that will make them feel a spectrum of emotions — from warm and fuzzy to sad and everything in between — then they will not be disappointed.
It will be interesting to see if Marshall will decide to make a fourth film about another popular holiday. There are still a few months left to release “Election Day.”