Meddling mums birth cluttered comedy in Otherhood

Writer and producer Cindy Chupack (whose resume includes Sex and the City, Modern Family and Everybody Loves Raymond) finds herself in the director’s chair for the new Netflix comedy Otherhood.

Otherhood is based on the William Sutcliffe novel Whatever Makes You Happy. The film stars Patricia Arquette, Felicity Huffman and Angela Bassett (who are also co-producers) as three mothers who met decades ago and became friends when their sons used to play together in their home town of Poughkeepsie.

The boys are now grown men. All of whom have moved to New York and none of whom are great examples of staying in touch with their mums.

Meddlesome Gillian (Arquette) has been unfriended by her son Daniel (Jake Hoffman), after speaking negatively about his girlfriend. He usually texts her only to tell her to stop calling.

Image-driven Helen (Huffman), who is still painfully hung-up on her ex, blames her divorce for the breakdown in communication between herself and her son Paul (Jake Lacy).

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Meanwhile, uptight widow Carol (Bassett) hasn’t seen her son Matt (Sinqua Walls) since her husband’s funeral.

After a few too many bourbons on Mother’s Day, the trio of mothers, who feel they’ve been relegated to “others”, decide to take a road trip to New York and reconnect with their sons over a surprise visit. Because everyone knows that dropping in unannounced is a very popular move.

Otherhood’s tagline “Life beyond Motherhood” aptly summarises the film’s original premise. Few movies have explored the mother and son relationship, particularly in its later years. The script clearly defines the three mother-son relationships that all have different but genuine dynamics. 

The film provides plenty of laughs and a few nice tender moments, which are all helped by a strong and experienced ensemble cast- a cast that is said to have originally included Michelle Pfeiffer, Viola Davis, and Diane Keaton.

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Unfortunately, Otherhood falters from the second act. Without spoiling the action that unfolds, suffice to say that the script includes a sub-plot which, apart from padding out the 100-minute running time, does nothing but detract from the heart of the film. 

Admittedly I haven’t read the source material so can’t say whether this was written to stick more closely to the book. Regardless, it’s a move that undermines the strength of the script. Including this extraneous conflict impedes Otherhood from diving more deeply into the characters and the mother-son relationships at the film’s core.

Despite having Academy award winners among its leading ladies, Otherhood is no Oscar-winner, but the robust ensemble cast and light-hearted script provide enough hearty snickers and heartstring tugs to make this a worthwhile streaming venture for your next night in.

SEE IT if…

You have grown-up kids

or

You haven’t rung your parents in a while

SKIP IT if…

You’re under 25

or

Childless

It gets 3 stars out of 5.

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