Film & Television

Moms at the Movies

Two days ago, we celebrated Mother’s Day. In the U.S., Mother’s Day became official in 1914, when President Wilson issued a proclamation:

“… I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and to invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday is May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

It was a lovely gesture with long-lasting results. The flower industry, in particular, owes a debt of gratitude to President Wilson; one-fourth of all annual flower and plant holiday purchases occur in early May. 

But is a single day really enough? I mean, motherhood is a 365-days-a-year job. In terms of the continuation of the human species, no one (arguably not even fathers) are quite as important as mothers. Must we really limit their recognition to just 24 hours, putting moms on par with groundhogs (Feb. 2), fools (Apr. 1), pi (Mar. 14), and Star Wars (May 4)?  

If, like me, you’d rather celebrate your mom, your grandmom, or yourself a little longer, Hollywood has given us more than enough mothers — good, bad, and indifferent — for weeks of watching. 

Here are some of the most memorable from recent years, available to stream or rent:


Herself tells the story of Sandra, a working-class Irish woman who has two angelic daughters and a monster for a husband. Every decision Sandra makes is for young Molly and Emma. She defends them against her abusive husband, and fights for them in court. She’s been beaten. She’s been broken. But she’s a mother and a hero. And you’ll love her for all of it. (Amazon Prime)

Lady Bird 

Greta Gerwig’s celebrated feature directorial and screenwriting debut is first and foremost a quirky coming-of-age story. But actors Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan deliver on a complex — and often explosive — mother-daughter relationship at the film’s heart. “Your mom’s really hard on you,” Lady Bird (Ronan)’s boyfriend observes. She shrugs, “Well, she loves me a lot.” (Netflix)


The horror category doesn’t often center around mothers and motherhood, but Relic, by Natalie Erika James, is an exceptional exception. Relic bridges the gap between fictional horror and the ultimate horror of real life: diminishment and death. There are some (very) scary moments, as well as scenes that will feel familiar to anyone who has watched a parent or grandparent age. (Showtime)

Miss Juneteenth 

In Channing Godfrey Peoples’s sensitive, moving, and ultimately uplifting mother-daughter story, Miss Juneteenth, the plight of the single mom is front and center. Turquoise is determined that Kai will have the opportunities she missed out on. Kai is deeply bonded to her mom, but eager to become her own person. The film is beautifully written, heartfelt, and true. (BET, BET+)

The Rest of Us 

Moms Cami and Rachel, and daughters Aster and Talulah, create and live a uniquely female experience as they form an ad hoc and unconventional (but nevertheless nurturing) household. As director Aisling Chin-Yee puts it, “This film is a celebration of the bond that women share and the resilience that so many women that I know have to roll up their sleeves and get shit done.” (Hulu)

Little Women 

Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved work presents the familiar March sisters in a new light. Holding the girls close is their beloved Marmee (Laura Dern). The film incorporates elements of the remarkable but often overlooked life of Alcott’s mother, Abby May Alcott. She was a fervid abolitionist, a talented (although unpublished) writer, and the first social worker in Massachusetts. And, of course, the ultimate mother. (Starz)


Marianna Palka’s critically acclaimed indie film Egg centers around women’s choices, challenges, and changing identities, especially the high-stakes question “To breed or not to breed?” And, if so … how, when, and with whom? Notably, the creative team, as well as the excellent core cast (Christina Hendricks, Alysia Reiner, Anna Camp), is composed, almost solely, of women. (Amazon Prime)

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

As in the first Mamma Mia! movie (both directed by Phyllida Lloyd), your enjoyment of this utterly silly tribute to motherhood (and Abba) depends on your ability to suspend critical thinking and go with the flow. Bring a hanky for Meryl Streep’s heart-wrenching rendition of “My Love, My Life,” the perfect tear-jerking follow-up to the earlier film’s “Slipping Through My Fingers.” (Rent from Amazon)

Bad Moms

At first take, Bad Moms may feel a little like Girls Gone Wild, the Perimenopause Edition. But the movie, which stars Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, and Kristen Bell, taps into genuine feelings and relatable experiences. These days, there’s tremendous pressure to be a perfect mother. But that’s an impossible goal. Sometimes you have to give up, fight back, or just sit back and laugh. (FX Now)

Love & Friendship

Jane Austen’s novels are full of mothers: hypochondriacal Mrs. Bennett, self-sacrificing Mrs. Dashwood, the ambitious Mrs. Ferrars, the disdainful Lady Catherine de Bourgh. But none are quite as crafty or utterly self-involved as Lady Susan, played to the hilt here by a radiant Kate Beckinsale. (Amazon Prime)

Whether you watch with a mother or someone who made you a mother, you’ll find these titles an excellent reminder of maternal strength, courage, conviction — and sometimes comedy and complications.

Happy Mother’s Week.


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