Rosemary Pendergast – Easy A
Brandon: Is there an Olive here?
Rosemary: I got a whole jar of them in the fridge!
Played by: Patricia Clarkson
First, an honourable mention. Olive’s mum in Easy A is easily one of the most enjoyable characters in cinema of the past few years. She and husband Dill (Stanley Tucci) are the coolest parents ever, and you kind of get the impression they’d be awesome to have at any Christmas dinner. But sadly, in their coolness, they lose their reality. Easy A is a film that is meant to take place in the real world (except for the articulate teenagers with in-depth 80s movie knowledge, and the premise that Emma Stone could ever pass as an unnoticeable gal in high school) but they are just not real parents. Awesome, yes, but not very real, so they get a mention.
#5. Beatrix Kiddo – Kill Bill
No, no, no, no, no. No, to get even – get even-steven…I would have to kill you…go up to Nikki’s room, kill her, then wait for your husband, the good Dr. Bell to come home and kill him. That would be even, Vernita. That’d be about square.
Played by: Uma Thurman
Kill Bill is very much not meant to take place in the real world, which is why such a badass as Beatrix Kiddo gets a spot on here. People can argue about what exactly makes a good mother, I think everyone can agree “devotion to their children” counts as a necessary quality, and Beatrix certainly fits the bill*.
I’d call it pretty fucking devoted to focus your time and energies into slaughtering the people responsible for the death of your child, especially when it comes to taking on swarms of yakuza, being shot in the chest with rock salt, buried alive and all the other scraps and scrapes along the way – one of those scrapes being a katana blade across the back. And if there’s any doubt of her devotion, just look at her expression when she finds out that her daughter is still alive.
#4. Helen Parr – The Incredibles
Remember the bad guys on the shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well these guys aren’t like those guys. They won’t exercise restraint because you are children. They will kill you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance.
Voiced by: Holly Hunter
Other than it being one of my favourite movies, The Incredibles is awesome for taking a kids movie, a superhero movie and a domestic drama all at the same time, and the key to this being a success is Helen Parr.
It probably helps that she’s voiced by the superb Holly Hunter, but Helen comes across not only as a woman whose life is lovingly devoted to her family, but it’s also completely believable that she’s a superhero at the same time. It’s a deliberate metaphor that the superhero-mother character’s power is incredible flexibility and the ability to stretch herself thin – it’s a simple allegory for motherhood in general. But Helen never loses her wits, and her first and primary concern is for her husband and children despite the peril they face in the movie – the gunmen everywhere, the unfamiliar hostile terrain, and of course dinnertime.
She’s also a character you really care for. When a series of miscommunications leads her to think Bob is having an affair, the look on her face as she says “Honey, I love you so much” is a lot more human than many real actresses can convey.
#3. Mel Freeland – Thirteen
I love you and your brother more than anything else in the world, and I’ll die for you, but I won’t leave you alone right now.
Played by: Holly Hunter
Thirteen, while an excellent film, does at times run the risk of being a bit over the top in its excesses. It’s an honest look at some of the nastier things teenagers can do to themselves, but every now and then it looks like its going to throw in the kitchen sink of teen recklessness…
It’s kept grounded by the character of Mel, who is, despite the qualities of the above two, not actually a very good mother, which is precisely the point. She’s a messed up, struggling divorcee whose affection for her children means she struggles to set down proper boundaries as her daughter Tracy spirals out of control.
But when push comes to shove, and Tracy comes to the edge of the abyss, she’s still unquestionably and undeniably there for her. There’s a fierce connection between the two, and while she might not be the best mother, she’s certainly a passionate one, and being a loving mother despite her flaws is what makes her a good one.
#2. Joyce Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Joyce: I’m, uh, guessing I missed some fun?
Willow: The spirit of the first slayer tried to kill us in our dreams.
Joyce: Oh… You want some hot chocolate?
Played by: Kristine Sutherland
I’ve spoken of my love for Joyce in the past, and I know she’s not from a movie, but my blog my rules.
Joyce is one of the better mums out there because she’s very believable – she still feels all the love and devotion that the others on the list do, but we spend more time with her over the course of the series than we do in one film. We get to see her at her best and worse, and you still care a lot about her the entire time.
If you doubt that she is one of the warmest mothers in fiction, consider that when she learned that Dawn was not real, she still knew she had to protect her and love her regardless. Buffy’s accustomed to the bizarre goings-on in the world, but Joyce only ever took an outsider’s stance – yet she’s still able to love and care for someone who isn’t even real, let alone her own daughter.
#1. Rose Darko – Donnie Darko
Donnie: How does it feel having a whacko for a son?
Rose: It feels wonderful.
Played by: Mary McDonnell
Quite simply, Rose is the realest mum on film. There is not a single moment of Mary McDonnel’s performance that doesn’t ring 100% true, and the believability of her performance is what makes Rose leave such a lasting impression, despite being a background character.
She’s loving and caring, and all the other niceties of cinematic motherhood, but she also gets frustrated, she reprimands, she doesn’t understand what’s going on with her children but through it all there’s never a moment where you doubt her utter sincerity in everything. I think the best moment to show just how real she is as a character is when Kitty Farmer utters the immortal line “Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!” – the look on her face just says it all.
And that quote above never fails to get me a little misty-eyed. I think we’ve all had the moments where we’ve felt that we’ve shamed our parents, but to have them there for us in the end is what matters, and her response could not be more loving and appropriate.
So that’s the list! Thoughts, comments? Share them below.
But in the end:
My favourite mother doesn’t exist in the movies, she is of course my own, and she kicks ass. I love her to pieces and probably don’t say it enough, so while the mothers on this list are all well and good, I’ll stick with my own thank you.
To all the mothers out there, I hope you have a good Mother’s Day. Kids, ignore that it’s a holiday designed to sell greeting cards and do something good for her.
Have a good one.