The Story of Mothers and Daughters
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The Miracle of "Mothers and Daughters"
by Eric Mink
April 21, 1997,NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

The miracle of “Mothers & Daughters”

New York Daily News

April 21, 1997

By Eric Mink

 

            The Story of Mothers & Daughters is a miraculous, perfect little film, less than an hour long, vast in its reach, firm in its grasp, deep in its touch.  It is no more than its title indicates, and no less – and you owe it to yourself to see it.

            Produced and directed by award-winning film makers Gary Weimberg, Catherine Ryan and Judith Leonard, the film premieres tonight at 8 on ABC.

            It seems bold, even audacious, for a documentary to promise the story of mothers and daughers.  How could such a varied, profound, complex and organic relationship be captured on film and squeezed into a mere 47 minutes of running time?  Wouldn’t the inevitable simplification of the process destroy the integrity of the project?  Isn’t pap the likely result?

            The answers to those questions are, “I don’t know,” “probably” and “yes.”  And the miracle of The Story of Mothers & Daughters is that it fulfills the promise of its title, obstacles notwithstanding.

            Told mainly through interviews with a gloriously diverse rainbow of women – and a few adorable little girls in tutus – the story overflows with the natural complexity of its subject.  The women speak of love, joy, teaching and learning.  They speak of fear, uncertainty and exasperation.  And of anguish, abandonment and cruelty.

            Telling this story honestly, in other words, means honoring the reality of relationships that exist on many levels as time unfolds and that occasionally even disintegrate in bitterness and recrimination.  Those aspects of the relationships aren’t overemphasized or exploited for dramatic purposes, but neither are they ignored.

            The Story of Mothers & Daughters divides neatly into five chapters organized around the progressive stages of life:  Birth, Growing Up, Separation, Woman to Woman, and Death and Renewal.  Many of the more than 50 women interviewed – mothers, daughters and grand-daughters – appear in more than one chapter, lending the film continuity as well as a sense of a blossom opening to reveal the layers of petals within.

That the producers and cinematographer Joan Churchill got these women to bare their emotions is another miracle.  This is especially so with stories that are dark and regretful.  “I was the product of a date rape,” one woman says, explaining why her birth mother gave her up for adoption.  Another middle-aged woman defines her relationship with her mother by saying “guilt, anger, emptiness and fear,” and gives a heartrending example.

            In the end though – reinforced by a poignant original score by Todd Boekelheide, and snippets of songs by Bonnie Raitt, the Supremes, Doris Day, Suzy Bogguss and the Chi Lites -- The Story of Mothers & Daughters finds a universal core at the center of all the unique stories told by all its distinctive women.  To every thing, it concludes without invoking the biblical passage, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven

 

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