mothers day

Mother’s Day: Mothers in Film We Can’t Help But Love

With Mother’s Day giving us all a chance to focus on some very special people in our lives, these films prove that there’s nothing a mother won’t do for her offspring; they demonstrate the incredible willpower and love that mothers possess. With these mothers standing fiercely behind us, there’s nothing in the world that can’t be accomplished.

Warning: may contain spoilers. If you haven’t already seen these great films and series, go watch them right now!

Jessica Huang, “Fresh off the Boat”

Constance Wu plays this tough, no-nonsense mom who just wants the best for her kids. She’s focused on keeping them in touch with their Taiwanese heritage despite living in Florida. But while she’s a strict disciplinarian at home and at the family’s Western-themed steakhouse, she’ll do anything for her kids — even go to a rap concert with her hip-hop-obsessed son Eddie, the narrator of the show. Through Eddie’s eyes, Jessica is a strict but caring parent who is puzzled but yet accepting of her son’s love for African-American culture.

Leigh Ann Tuohy, “The Blind Side”

Based on a true story, this strong-willed and caring mother adopts 17-year-old Michael Oher, a homeless high school student with a drug-addicted mother and incredible football potential. Although she already has two children, Leigh Ann takes in Michael as one of her own and encourages him to pursue a career in professional football with the NFL. Michael’s future hangs precariously in the balance between a life on the streets and a college football future, but due in part to Leigh Ann’s motivation and belief in his skills, he chooses the college route at Ole Miss. Michael later went on to play in the NFL and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2009. Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Leigh Ann Tuohy.

Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, “Modern Family”

There’s a reason “Modern Family” has won 21 Primetime Emmy Awards, 5 Writers Guild Awards, 2 SAG Awards, and 1 Golden Globe: it’s an incredibly well-executed show. Within that amazing environment, Sofia Vergara has been singled out for her own impressive list of award nominations for her portrayal of Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, a wife and mother who is passionate about her modern family. Vergara herself has won the People’s Choice Award for playing Gloria, and received a nomination for each season of her work for Best Actress in a Comedic Series at both the Golden Globes and the Emmy Awards.

M’Lynn, “Steel Magnolias”

There’s nothing this fierce Southern mom won’t do for her young — including giving her a kidney. Portrayed by Sally Field, M’Lynn is the epitome of caring; she’s a social worker who is devoted to her family, especially her daughter Shelby and Shelby’s young son Jack. Fiery, passionate, and deeply rooted in her Louisiana heritage, M’Lynn is another mother we can’t help but love.

Dr. Rainbow “Bow” Johnson, “Black-ish”

This accomplished mother wears many hats: she’s an anesthesiologist, a mom of four, and a black parent navigating the upper-middle-class world. Played with gusto by Tracee Ellis Ross, who received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, Bow must shepherd her family through complex issues facing black families. While the show doesn’t hesitate to deal with police brutality, loss of culture, and LGBT issues, it’s Bow’s love and devotion to her family that anchors “Black-ish” and cements its high standing in the world of sitcoms.

Sarah Connor, “The Terminator”

This science fiction action film stars Linda Hamilton as a woman who becomes both a mother and a warrior. Her son will one day save mankind from the onslaught of machines — that is, if she doesn’t get killed first by a time-traveling mercenary known as the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger). A muscular and toned Linda Hamilton played Connor in the franchise’s earlier movies, easily slinging around high-powered assault rifles in order to save both her son and the future of humanity. Sarah Connor shows us that mothers can totally bad-ass.

Miss Honey, “Matilda”

Let’s face it: after watching Matilda, everyone wanted Miss Honey as a mother! Played by Embeth Davidtz in the 1996 film, Miss Honey is a serene and nurturing presence who truly believes in young Matilda Wormwood’s brilliance. Meanwhile, Matilda’s biological mother is cold, uncaring, and more concerned with her hair color and her husband’s used-car scam than her daughter’s incredible abilities. Miss Honey eventually adopts Matilda in the end as the FBI raids her parents’ house and the Wormwoods prepare to flee to Guam.

Mrs. Gump, “Forrest Gump”

While the film focuses primarily on Forrest’s lucky chances, Mrs. Gump (also played by Sally Field) is a caring figure and the foundation of Forrest’s life, telling her special-needs son that he can do anything. Although his father has abandoned the family and Mrs. Gump runs a bed and breakfast on her own, she is a fiercely independent woman who encourages her son to overcome obstacles and follow his dreams.

Happy Mother’s Day! Who are your favorite film mothers? Let us know in the comments below!


Mother’s Day: 4 Different Mother Stereotypes in Film

With Mother’s Day around the corner (May 14 – don’t forget!), we find ourselves remembering some of the most famous mothers in film. Whether it is an independent film or a Hollywood blockbuster, a mother character is almost always in the picture. They are loving and kind, fierce and intelligent, but can also be strict, overbearing, even psychotic. No matter the archetype, it cannot be denied that mothers play a huge role in some of history’s biggest films.

Here are four different stereotypes of mothers in film.

Spoiler Alert — this article may contain some movie spoilers. If you haven’t seen these great films, watch them now!

1. The Best Friend

While a mother will always be a mother, her relationship with her children changes as they grow up. The Best Friend movie mother begins to lose control of her children, and must become something different for them: a friend. This doesn’t mean they do everything together and get along all the time. Quite the opposite. The mother is usually controlling and feels helpless in the face of having no authority. But she will always be there to support her daughter as a friend. For example, Sally Field in “Steel Magnolias” and Shirley McClain in “Terms of Endearment.” The image of McClain’s character and her daughter (played by Debra Winger) lying in bed together is an iconic image and shows the closeness of their relationship.

While the mothers and daughter may not always see eye to eye, they are in constant contact with each other and talk like friends. Strangely, these two films have similar tragic endings as well (grab the tissues!).

2. The Supermom

Perhaps the most popular movie mom stereotype, the Supermom is also the broadest because of how many different types of Supermoms there are. They can be everything from a housewife to a business woman, however one thing always rings true: they will fight like hell for their family. Take Molly Weasley (Julie Walters) in the “Harry Potter” films. In the clips below, she protects her daughter from the crazed Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter).

Or Etheline Tenebaum (Angelica Houston) from “The Royal Tenenbaums.” A single mother who “kept the house and raised the children, and their education was her highest priority.”

There is also Mary Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (played by Donna Reed), who helps save her husband when he has money problems and could go to jail.

No task is too big for whatever challenges she faces. The Supermom is always loving, strong, unyielding, and will do anything for their family.

3. The Overbearing Mother

On a different end of the movie mother spectrum is the overbearing mother. She wants what is best for her child, but that often means what she thinks is best. She will ignore her child’s wishes, dreams, or personality to force them into something they are not. The mother may have good intentions, but it will always result in a rift between them. The child will sometimes run away, resent his/her mother, or even do drastic things to exert their individuality. How the mother controls her children varies. For example, Annette Bening’s character in “American Beauty” is a powerhouse of control. She uses passive aggressive remarks and insults to show her disapproval of her daughter.

The character of Mrs. Bennet, played by Brenda Blethyn, in “Pride and Prejudice” (2005) forces her daughter Elizabeth to marry a man she doesn’t love (until her father steps in to save her).

In the world of animated film, the mother from “Brave” (2012), is a perfect example of a controlling mother. She tries to teach her headstrong and rebellious daughter Merida how to be a lady, and even tries to force her into an arranged marriage.

Luckily, this story ends more happily, with mother and daughter learning more about each other and finally coming together.

4. The Psycho

The most extreme movie mother stereotype is the psychotic mother, who takes overbearing to a whole other level. She controls her children through psychological and even physical abuse, sometimes driving the children themselves to commit terrible acts. The first example that comes to mind is, of course, Mrs. Bates from “Psycho” (1960). While we learn at the end of the film that Mrs. Bates was not the real killer, her life before she became a skeleton in the cellar is not a pretty one. She was controlling with her son Norman, abused him psychologically, and wouldn’t let him have relationships with other women because of her crazed jealousy. She even killed herself and her lover, leaving Norman all alone to fill the void she left in his life. Though we never see Mrs. Bates on screen, the scene below with her voice over shows the true psychotic nature of this mother.

Another example is the characters of actress Joan Crawford (played by Faye Dunaway) in the 1981 film “Mommie Dearest.” Based on a memoir by Crawford’s daughter Christina, the film shows the psychotic downward spiral her mother takes as she goes from star to has-been. She torments her children, locks Christina in a pool house, and physically abuses them when they do anything wrong. The famous scene below depicts Joan screaming at Christina for hanging her expensive dresses on wire hangers and then beating her with one. The line “No wire hangers!” later became a classic movie quote.

Trigger Warning: the following video clip depicts domestic violence against children and contains some disturbing images.

The mother from the 1976 “Carrie” is perhaps the epitome of the psychotic mother. Played by Piper Laurie, Carrie’s mother abuses her daily. She teaches a strict religious doctrine, won’t allow her daughter to date, hits her, and will even lock her up when she does something wrong. Unfortunately, the mother’s psychosis leads her to try to kill her daughter, who uses her powers to defend herself.

Does your current film project include a mother? Does she fit into one of the above movie stereotypes, or is she something brand new? Tell us about her and don’t forget to call your own mom this Mother’s Day!

6 Lessons On-Screen Mothers Have Taught us About Acting

6 Lessons On-Screen Mothers Have Taught us About Acting

Angelina Jolie, Susan Sarandon, Mo’Nique, Essie Davis, Jodie Foster, and Meryl Streep — all mothers — teach us all a little something about acting.

Mothers: we salute you.

You’ve cooked us countless meals. You’ve put up with our laundry-strewn bedroom floors. You’ve been a shoulder to cry on when we got snubbed by that crush we were infatuated with in high school. But, ultimately, you’ve helped nurture and encourage the next generation of filmmaking talent and for that you deserve unending praise.

And so, in tribute to mothers everywhere, today we’re paying homage to six cinematic mothers who have taught us all a little something about acting over the years.


1. Angelina Jolie – The Changeling

What We Learned: Motherhood isn’t a character trait

With stunning cinematography and a tight script reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby, The Changeling sees Jolie’s character distraught to find her nine year-old son missing. But on being reunited, things go from bad to worse; when she adamantly declares that the boy isn’t actually her son, authorities conspire to brand her psychotic.

From start to finish, the audience is locked into an emotional rollercoaster and herein lies the key to Angelina’s impressive performance: motherhood isn’t just a line on her character spec sheet. Even though it’s central to her story arc, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of her character – under the umbrella of motherhood, she runs the gamut of emotion. At times she’s broken and in despair; at others she’s fierce and strong. Depending on the situation the plot finds her in, she’s nurturing, sexy, divisive, hopeful, frustrated, joyful and desperate…

… in short, she acts as a real person would in real situations. The fact that she has a child is purely circumstantial.

Read more: The importance of subtext

2. Susan Sarandon – Stepmom

What we learned: It’s okay to play to type

While keeping Jolie’s lesson in mind for how to play a multi-dimensional mom character, there’s also no shame in playing that character often if it’s something you are terrific at.

Susan Sarandon is proof of this, and despite having played a mother figure in numerous movies, no two of her performances are alike as she ekes out and embellishes the role in different ways as the script demands.

Stepmom is a classic example – just make sure you have a handkerchief at the ready.

Read more: How to find your type as an actor

3. Mo’Nique – Precious

(Caution: NSFW Language)

What we learned: It’s not all sunshine and roses

 When you think of on-screen moms, usually the first image that springs to mind is one of a domestic housewife living in marital bliss.

But of course, art imitates life, warts and all. That means some performances call for a frighteningly abusive relationship between parent and child, and nobody captured the darkness with more authenticity than Mo’Nique and her on-screen daughter Gabourey Sibide in Precious.

Some characters are more monstrous than others, and parents are no exception. As actors, it’s important to give it our all in order to bring that character to life no matter whether it calls for domestic happiness or terrifying dysfunction.

4. Essie Davis – The Babadook

What We Learned: A duty of care

So terrifying and demented was Essie Davis’ performance as a slowly-unraveling mother (and the entire movie in general) that many viewers were left wondering how the crew didn’t mentally scar 6 year-old actor Noah Wiseman for real.

Director Jennifer Kent, however, took great pains to make sure that Wiseman’s welfare was at the forefront of production. The child’s mother was on set at all times in what was described as a ”very protective, loving environment” and Wiseman himself wasn’t present during more traumatic scenes with an adult extra taking his place: “During the reverse shots where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie [Davis] yell at an adult stand-in on his knees. I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film – that wouldn’t be fair.”

Ultimately, no matter whether we’re directing a film, in acting school or performing opposite a very young actor, we all have a duty of care to understand that great cinema doesn’t need to come at the expense of a child’s well-being.

Read more: 5 performances by child actors we can all learn from

5. Jodie Foster – Panic Room

What We Learned: Not all on-screen bonds are purely fictional

David Fincher’s 2002 thriller worked on many levels, but it was arguably the close bond between the mother and daughter characters which propelled the drama and kept the film emotionally grounded.

And the reason it worked so well is that the bond was real – Jodie was deeply nurturing of her 10 year-old costar Kristen Stewart, who in turn looked up to the acting veteran (Foster was also responsible for having the script changed to make her on-screen daughter a tougher character.)

To this day the pair remain close, with Foster calling Stewart “my other daughter” and Stewart having honored Foster while receiving her Walk of Fame star.

And on a similar (if a lot darker) vein…

6. Meryl Streep – Mamma Mia!

What We Learned: We draw from the strong women around us

The ultimate Mother’s Day movie, and one which sees Meryl Streep performing at her finest (though really, when is she not?).

While her filmography is as varied as it is extensive, Streep is no stranger to performing as an on-screen mother and her career is loosely typified as being one that exudes feminine strength, of which Mamma Mia! is a good example.

And perhaps a lot of her acting prowess is rooted in her close bond with her real-life maternal figures – Streep drew extensively from both her mom and grandmother’s experiences to as a career mother and war survivor respectively for her celebrated roles in Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice.

And the inspiration may even run deeper than that. Of her highly encouraging mother, Streep says: “She was a mentor because she said to me, ‘Meryl, you’re capable… If you’re lazy, you’re not going to get it done. But if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.’”

Amen to that.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those that continue to inspire us, as well as those who are sadly no longer with us.