Rodrigo Garcia has directed some great dramatic television, most notably Six Feet Under. The powerful, creative and slick writing and directing, which was apparent on that series, Garcia has obviously brought to his latest film that centers on three different women whose lives become linked through the most primal ways.
Oscar-nominee Annette Bening stars as Karen, an aloof, bitter and cynical woman who ironically works as a nurse. Her job is to care for people, but her general behavior suggests she cares for no one. Karen's mother is in need of round-the-clock medical care. When Karen is at work, Karen has a Hispanic woman with her mother. After work, Karen takes over but really treats it and her mom like a job she doesn't want.
Emmy-winner Jimmy Smits who plays Paco, a fellow nurse, tries to have conversations with Karen, but keeps getting rebuffed. Karen's cold behavior backs him off, even when he attempts small talk. Karen always returns Paco's advances with very harsh words to create hilariously awkward situations, yet great tension.
Naomi Watts co-stars as Elizabeth Joyce, a lawyer who also has a bit of a cold disposition. Her words aren't harsh but they are manipulative. She's bold and brazen. She'll say and do anything to get what she wants, and what she wants is power.
Samuel L. Jackson plays Paul, a partner at the law firm where Elizabeth seeks to work. At the opening, he gets Elizabeth to open up and give a brief history of her independence. From lies to her neighbors to inappropriate meetings, Paul really gets a dose of Elizabeth's jockeying for power as well as her strong independence.
Kerry Washington (Ray and The Last King of Scotland) co-stars as Lucy. She and her husband Joseph, played by David Ramsey (Dexter), are attempting to adopt a baby. She has to first get the approval of Ray, the pregnant girl who is about seven months. Lucy is nervous and becomes very talkative, rambling even. She probably is the antithesis of Elizabeth. Elizabeth exudes confidence. Lucy does not.
Despite being a teen girl, Ray, played by Shareeka Epps (Half Nelson), is very intimidating and seems determined to get rid of her baby. Her mother, played by Lisa Gay Hamilton from Garcia's previous film Nine Lives, reminds her of the importance of motherhood.
As the film progresses, one learns that the whole thing is about the importance of motherhood. All three of the main female characters, Karen, Elizabeth and Lucy, at one point, feel like they aren't meant to be mothers. They have to look back at their lives and even look forward to what they truly want to see if motherhood is meant for them. For all of them, they're hard looks.
No one takes a harder look than Karen and Bening who plays the arc of her character very well. It was a hard look, but Bening works it so beautifully. She's a woman who acts tough but who inside is very fragile and Karen knows it, which is why she's so guarded.
Rodrigo Garcia worked so well with women in Nine Lives that with this one he proves that he knows how to do great stories with really great female protagonists. Garcia makes them real. He makes them funny. He makes them genuine. He makes them sexy. He makes them serious. He makes them heartbreaking.