In Garry Marshall’s latest light-hearted romp, mothers are the focus. No matter the situation, the reality is that we are deeply affected by our mothers…and they are deeply affected by us. This movie is an exploration of many of those complicated dynamics of motherhood. Ultimately, I don’t know that it is really trying to make a bold statement, so much as it’s simply spending a little time thinking about and honoring motherhood.
It actually starts with acknowledging many of the pains and disappointments that go along with being a mom, or having a mom. Sandy’s disappointed because her marriage didn’t work and she is now a single mom…something she hadn’t planned on. Not to mention her ex is newly married to a much younger woman, Tina, who is trying to be a mother to the kids as well. Tina is in a hard place, trying to win over the boys and being ill-equipped to handle medical emergencies, etc. Jesse is hiding her marriage and her son from her mother because she married an Indian man against her mother’s wishes. Her sister is also hiding from their mother, because she has a wife and a son from a sperm donor. They are in a hard spot, as is their mother who has missed her daughters…and gets the surprises of a lifetime when she shows up on their doorstep. What do you do when your kids don’t turn our like you expected? What do you do when your mother doesn’t approve of your life? Miranda says she has a career instead of kids, but really, she gave up her daughter for adoption (teen pregnancy) and her heart’s been broken… Kristin, Miranda’s daughter, has a lot of hurt, confusion and questions about the mother she never knew. And Bradley is struggling to be Mr. Mom and his children are struggling with their mom’s death. Nearly any disappointment you can think of surrounding motherhood is at least given a nod to (except for, weirdly, they don’t deal with the pain of wanting to be a mom and not be able to…infertility, etc.).
The struggles are acknowledged but the movie doesn’t try to dive in too deeply. It’s not that kind of movie. It’s a montage that wraps things up fairly simply with love, reminding us that in the end, we love our mothers and they love us. Not only do we love each other, but we need each other, too—not just mothers and their children, but all of us, as a community. The new stepmom needed the kids’ birth mom in a crisis. Lonely single mom and widowed “Mr. Mom” needed each other’s help but also companionship. Sisters needed support to face their disapproving mom… and so on. We may not always be able to wrap things up so quickly and lovingly and easily, but ultimately, we like these movies because something in us wants to. We want to believe that love conquers all, that offenses can be forgiven and forgotten and that life can be full of hope and joy again, no matter how disappointing it may have been.
It may seem naïve, and certainly it may take a bit of work, but the good news of Jesus is that happy endings aren’t just for the movies. He came to bring abundant life to us. He came to restore our relationships and to teach us (and help/enable/empower us) to forgive and to love. He came to restore families and wipe tears from our eyes and turn all our disappointments into rejoicings. So if you see Mother’s Day and find yourself aching because of some wound you have…bring it to Jesus, the Healer, and see what He will do. I don’t know what and I don’t know how, but I do know He can heal and bring love and joy and wholeness back to your heart.
Questions for Discussion:
- Which character did you identify with most and why?
- Does mother’s day or the thought of motherhood (being one or having one) bring you any pain or disappointment? Why or why not?
- Have you ever asked God to heal your heart?
- Do you think happy endings are possible or naïve? Why?
- How did you feel about the various alternative family models shown in this movie?