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So many of us watch movies to escape reality. Get away from our everyday lives and pretend, even for just a couple of hours, that life is different. Comedies, romantic comedies, drama, even horror movies - we don't really watch to see our own lives reflected on screen, you know? It's escapism and entertainment! But sometimes, it can be nice to not see the same perfection tied in a pretty bow all the time. Realistic movies that portray life how we see it can be helpful. It gives us a chance to connect with people based on our shared experiences. This can particularly true when it comes to movies about motherhood. We all experience motherhood in our own way, but so much of it wouldn't be considered ... pretty.
Realistic movies about motherhood don't sugarcoat this amazing journey. They tell it like it is - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Society tends to glorify motherhood and make it seem like this magical thing. And it can be! It is, in so many ways. But in so many more ways, motherhood is raw and painful and remarkably hard. That is totally normal, and we should portray it as such. When you're in the weeds and struggling everyday, you don't really want to see a movie where someone makes it all look simple, you know? These realistic movies about motherhood look beyond the idealized version, and delivery motherhood as we all know it.
Tilda Swinton plays Eva Khatchadourian, a free-spirited travel writer who gives up her freedom and lifestyle to have a child with her husband Franklin. Eva never thoroughly enjoys pregnancy and has a hard time bonding with her son, Kevin. Kevin is a colicky baby, a difficult toddler, and in later years, an extremely troubled young man. A series of horrific acts committed by Kevin throughout the film test Eva's love and commitment to him as his mother. It's one of those worst-case, "holy crap what would I do in that situation?" movies. While the vast majority of us can't relate to what Eva and her family go through in the film, it's hard not to connect with her on an emotional level.
This is one of our favorite movies about motherhood of all time. And it's not even about a mother, exactly! Juno, played by Ellen Page, is a young woman dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. The movie explores the often tumultuous territory of teen pregnancy, adoption, and motherhood in a lighthearted way. Juno may not be a mom in the sense that she doesn't have a child of her own, but her decision to find the right parents for her unborn baby and the way she handles the adoption process is shockingly honest. Juno really nails what it means to be a mom.
This is one of those movies about motherhood that you 100% need to watch with your own daughter. It's honest, heartbreaking, and brutally funny. When our kids get too old for us to control their lives, what the hell are we supposed to do?! We all know that day is coming, as much as we try to deny it. Laurie Metcalf's portrayal of a hardworking mom trying to help her rebellious teen daughter navigate life is poignant and infuriating and powerful. We know that Lady Bird is supposed to be the focus of the movie, but Metcalf's deft handling of motherhood really steals the show.
We have to admit, we had VERY different reactions watching Kramer vs Kramer before and after having kids of our own. It's so easy to brush off Joanna Kramer's "abandonment" of her family as selfish. But watching it after becoming a mom, we saw her pain, her struggles with postpartum depression, and her sacrifice. The scene where she talks about finally finding out who she was? So real. The movie was groundbreaking in its time for the way it portrayed single fatherhood. But really, it's a stunning breakdown of the mental struggles so many moms face, and just how far mothers will go to do the best thing for their children.
Cher takes NO SHIT when it comes to making sure her son Rocky has the best that life can offer him. She is the ultimate mama bear, and the entire film is a testament to what a mom will go through to advocate for her kids. Our absolute favorite scene, hands down, is the school registration scene. "Do you teach algebra and biology and English here? Those are his needs." The film is based on the true story of Roy L. "Rocky" Dennis, a young man with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. Cher plays Rusty, his troubled mom who ends up being saved by him, just as much as she saves him. It's a heartbreaking story, and a fierce portrayal of motherhood and love.
Now, we're not saying our kids are a bunch of spoiled rotten good-for-nothings, but it can sure feel that way sometimes, right? Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce puts the capital T in tenacity as a woman hellbent on making something of herself for her kids. Now, there's a lot more going on here than just that (little bit of murder and backstabbing, for example). But watching Mildred go above and beyond to give her children what they want and letting nothing stand in her way is something we can all relate to. Still makes us happy when Veda goes down, though, she was the worst.
The best movies about motherhood have a way of reaching right into our chests and pulling out hearts out. The Joy Luck Club is such a movie. The film spans generations to tell the story of mothers and daughters. It beautifully conveys the conflict and complications in these relationships, and brings us full circle to the moment a mother's sacrifice is revealed. It's a beautiful movie, not just for the way it depicts motherhood, but for how it teaches us to study the stories of our moms to understand who they truly are and how their pasts shaped our futures.
We know what you're thinking! A horror movie, included on a list of realistic movies about motherhood? But if you look past the horror aspects of the film, you get a story of a single mom dealing with grief, mental illness, and shame as she tries to raise the son she had no intentions of raising on her own. Sure, none of us actually ever turn into a literal monster, but surely we can relate to navigating and overcoming some pretty terrible stuff on this journey of motherhood. It really is a great film, and the ending perfectly captures what it's like to tame our own demons to be the best moms we can be.
When the trailer for Tully first came out, moms everywhere were like, FINALLY. Up until then, it was so rare to see motherhood depicted in all its brutal honesty. It wasn't until screenings of the film revealed the true plot that we sort of understood the true depths of what the film was trying to accomplish. Though it missed in some key ways (like equating postpartum depression with the much more serious postpartum psychosis), it still presented motherhood in a more realistic way than we've seen. Plus, it got people talking about the very real dangers of postpartum mood disorders and mental illness, which is an incredibly important topic.
Mothers are imperfect beings. We make mistakes, we get angry, we lose our way. But part of the beauty of motherhood is that sometimes, it is the act of being a mother that brings it all back right again. The story of reluctant teen mom Bev and her son Jason is funny and sad and difficult to watch at times. Bev blames Jason for ruining her life and all her dreams, and Jason calls Bev selfish for not wanting him to follow his own path. We watch as they grow up together, which is a beautiful thing to see unfold. Being a mother is understanding that life gives us not what we want sometimes, but what we need.
Don't lie: You KNOW you wish you could give everyone at the next PTA meeting the middle finger. The stress of motherhood is real! And while we don't stoop to the lows displayed in the movie (unless you've actually planted drugs in a kid's locker), we can certainly relate to trying out best to keep it together while it all falls apart. The message of the film gets a bit lost in all the humor, but it really does capture how competitive it can feel to be the mom who has her shit together, and just how much we handle on a daily basis.
Man, this one really tugs at the heartstrings. Besides being an absolutely stunning tale of finding your way back home, Lion shows us just how selfless a mother can be, and captures the love moms have their children. It's a movie about adoption, redemption, discovery, and setting our children free to follow their heart. It also shows us that biology has nothing to do with being a mother, which is something so many people have yet to truly understand. As moms, we are given the difficult task of encouraging our children on their path, even if its a path that may lead them away from us. This is a seriously stunning film, and a must-see for moms everywhere.
In a nutshell, motherhood is trying our damndest to protect our kids while still giving them the freedom to fly. And no movie captures that quite as well as Steel Magnolias. We have seen this movie HUNDREDS of times and still cry at every scene that we cried at the first time. From M'Lynn tsk-tsking Shelby for wanting too much to her swooping in to literally save her life when she goes into diabetic shock, it's just perfect at every turn. And the finals scenes, watching M'Lynn process the grief of losing her beloved daughter, will never not tear our mama hearts to shreds.
We don't like to dwell on all the terrible things that could (theoretically) happen to our kids. The world is a scary place and bad things happen all the time. But who among us wouldn't do anything, and we mean ANYTHING, to save our children? The movie is flashy and violent and gory, but at the heart of it, Kill Bill is about one mother going to the ends of the earth to find her child. And we can definitely all relate to that. But we probably wouldn't all be as skilled with weapons as The Bride. At least we hope not.
Room is a heartbreaking story and an incredibly difficult movie to watch. But it really highlights just how far mothers will go to protect their kids, both physically and mentally. And it beautifully captures the pain we'll absorb on a daily basis to keep our kids from feeling that same pain. Joy and Jack know only their Room, where they've spent all of Jack's life. Joy shields him from the pain of their situation, convincing him that only she and him are real and everything else is make-believe. Even after they're rescued, Joy goes to great lengths to protect Jack, even at her own peril.
We can all relate to feeling like we lost ourselves once we had kids. Our dreams take a backseat, along with our needs. Alice, recently widowed single mom, decides to follow her dreams of being a singer, but is ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of being a mother while trying to recapture her own identity. Motherhood has a way of changing who we are, and while it might seem like we lose so much of ourselves, we end up gaining more than we thought we could have. Alice's journey is a great reminder of that, and one we could use from time to time.