Is motherhood possible to express in its rawest, most honest form? What is the limit to the amount of distress an individual can accept for the sake of a default divine Godwoman status? And why are the pre-dominant trials, tribulations, and the unconditional, selfless love that overshadows them all? The maternal bond is still sacred and unassisted in an age when relationships can be formed in a flash of an eye. Art has never shied away from this conversation, and it’s an appropriate time in an uncertain period when the call for inclusion and tolerance has been the highest priority.
The 2021 year was a breakthrough in ground-breaking films covering different aspects of social stigma. Many of them unapologetically show the parallels of many mothers who took bold steps to redefine old transcribed notions.
Cinema and mainstream television remained ignorant of the tabooed subjects of intimate relationships. The list of banned topics includes unnatural motherhood. As the Shakespearean-Freudian conundrum in every Hamlet adaptation has split many viewers, numerous other instances put the birth givers on the saddle and raised many an eyebrow. The pot was stirred from the haunting Hitchcock film Psycho to Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. But the emphasis was on the supernatural and not the impure. The word’s definitions changed with the advent of a more liberated generation. However, the sentimental value of the disillusioned ones remained the same.
Television for mothers’
Television had always given them a longer time frame to develop their characters. Mad Men’s Betty Draper is a great example of this: a trophy housewife who has questionable actions toward her offspring. This morally grey zone.
While Lydia Soprano plotted the murder of her son Lydia Soprano, Gangster moms ruled. Cersei Lannister defended her children by playing Game of Thrones with all her finesse. The show’s super-hit formula featured savage, funny mothers who saved the day and the episodes. Until recently, the stories started to shift their soft condescending narratives to more perceive-it-as-you-wish ones. The cinema began to speak the uncensored without filter, and today we have so many stories with the same central point: the essence of unusual motherhood. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter is the best of the bunch. It reveals the torment of motherhood deeply while also revealing a mystery that never really unravels. And it raises a question: To what extent does motherhood still have a divinity status?
Pablo Larraine’s Spencer depicts the late People’s Prince Diana as she struggles to cope with the expectations of social normalcy. Her only refuge is her two sons. Parallel Mothers by Pedro Almodovar is the most inclusive and political of this list about single parenting that embraces sexuality. Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon beautifully shows how isolation and estrangement can take a toll on a parent. Villeneuve’s epic Dune set the deserts ablaze with Harkonnen Princess Jessica’s magical Bene Gesserit methods to test her son’s mettle. Jane Campion illustrates the power struggle within a western household, where the mother is the trump card and the son has the upper hand in The Power of The Dog. The revelation that none of these stories follows the same path as the parent-child dynamics is quite striking. Because all the films were either adapted from a lesser-known book or an original screenplay, they have their narratives and are not limited to one-dimensional views of motherhood. Many awards categories recognized that many of the actors played such roles (a stupendous Olivia Colman playing the Lost Daughter, Kristen Stewart’s career-best Lady Diana, Penelope Cruz’s unprecedented act in Parallel Mothers) and that we are making progress towards a safe space to discuss. It is imperative to acknowledge the positive and negative aspects of motherhood as we move towards a world that promises safety for children and women. Motherhood is an enormous title by default, but it can also be viewed broadly. We can expect to see more acceptance and discourse for the many unusual cases of motherhood that remain.