Elevate Difference

Mothers & Daughters

Carl Bessai’s film Mothers & Daughters weaves a very textile-esque narrative containing a talented ensemble cast who convincingly engage the complex relationship between parent and child. Babz Chula brilliantly plays Micki, a self-involved romance novelist who all too easily forgets her daughter Rebecca’s needs. Rebecca, played by Camille Sullivan, possesses a rather brooding soul. Counter to this is the palpably awkward relationship between housewife Brenda (Gabrielle Rose) and her exceedingly stoic daughter Kate (Tiffany Lyndall-Knight). Kate’s bond clearly lies with her just-departed father, who left for a seemingly better life. Lastly, but certainly not least, is the character of Celine (Tantoo Cardinal), a woman who owns a house-painting business is hired by Cynthia (Tinsel Korey), a daughter-figure who knows little of her origins. Their tense relationship and developing connection prompts the viewer to question the existence of an actual blood relation.

All three relationships juxtaposed with one another barely scrape the surface of the mother/daughter bond, but they do portray, eerily well, the ups-and-downs involved. While all three couplings do seem to focus more on the tumultuous nature of the relationship, I find it oddly comforting that no explanations are given for the occasional discord, strife, or alienation. The film doesn’t function as mere reductive documentation of Freudian psychological case studies, but as an alarmingly real glimpse into the challenging relationship between mother and female child. I found the exchanges between Brenda and Kate to be particularly unpleasant and affecting, but was comforted to find several tender moments between them especially in the closing scenes.

It is easy to view the film as depressing and gloomy, but, as in normal parent/child relationships, it’s not always good times. As the “child” grows older and develops a distinct sense of self, and, as seen in the film, the mothers see themselves in the daughters as disparate as their personalities may be. It was refreshing to watch a movie that didn’t relegate the mother/daughter connection to that of mutual admiration and high regard, but it aptly portrayed it as complicated, raw, and messy, all-the-while taking into account the tender and compassionate side of things.

In addition to being the director of Mothers & Daughters, Bessai also wrote the screenplay and co-produced the film with Rod Ruel. The idea of a male writer/director and two male producers as makers of this film excited me to no end, as I eagerly awaited the arrival of the DVD in the mail. I was hesitant to think that a male could accurately capture the connection between two women, but I was pleasantly surprised by the sensitive, reflective, and intensely philosophical treatment of the connection between mother and daughter.

Written by: Erin K. Murphy, June 29th 2009