Motherhood in the Movies

The Netflix original movie Otherhood, starring Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett, and Felicity Huffman, is billed as soul food for moms whose children have flown the nest. It examines the changing relationships between mothers and their grown sons, all close friends since meeting on a Poughkeepsie playground decades earlier. The moms spontaneously embark on an unannounced visit to their city-dwelling sons after not receiving as must as a text message on Mother’s Day. 

Otherhood illustrates the angst common among empty nesters, particularly mothers—the boys’ fathers take a back seat in the women-centric story. For most of the film, the women agonize over whether or not they have raised good men, internalizing every one of their sons’ job choices, broken relationships, and texts left on “read” as a reflection on their parenting. Fair enough, as these millennial men are pretty closed off towards their mothers for various, individual reasons. But the problem with the film is that the mothers come off as utterly clueless when it comes to boundaries and communication with their adult sons and possess no self-awareness of why they are in these one-way relationships. Ultimately, their inappropriate meddling ends up being “successful” in the predictable plot conclusion. 

Otherhood does not offer a healthy roadmap for parents to navigate as they wrestle with their adult children’s life choices. It’s not a great representation of aging women, who are entering the prime of their lives—filled with opportunity for reconnection with self and which should be marked with developmentally appropriate individuation from their children. And their twenty-something sons aren’t exactly representing their generation all that well either. The character who plays Angela Bassett’s son, a Dartmouth grad, works for a sexist men’s magazine and even inadvertently lures an underage girl to his apartment under the premise that she could become a model. This one hits hard amidst the Jeffrey Epstein/Victoria’s Secret allegations

Otherhood downplays the legitimate grief and loneliness many parents experience when their children leave home for good and does a disservice to audiences who were drawn to the film hoping for a relatable and realistic storyline.

Take Action! If you are in the same phase of life as the women in Otherhood, learn more about real ways to cope with and get support for empty nester syndrome.