Sins of the Mother. A Lifetime Movie Network movie. 2010. No DVD release date (yet). As of this post date, the movie can be streamed at the Lifetime Movie Network.
The Plot: Shay Hunter is a graduate student, forced to return home because she's run out of options. Her professor says she's one of his smartest and brightest. Unfortunately, she has trouble getting along with her students and even had a run in with the Dean. Shay is lucky she just has to take a year off. Where else can she go, but home?
Home. To her alcoholic, neglectful mother. Nona says she's in recovery and AA, but Shay lived with Nona all her life. She knows the truth, this won't last. Nona's house looks like something out of a storybook when Shay drives up, tired and angry. It's a beautiful cottage, lush gardens, and Shay's five year old half-sister, Sunshine, dressed as a ballerina with a cute room.
It's the home and life Shay never had.
Distrustful, hurt, searching, Shay has to figure out what to do with her life. And whether there is room for Nona.
The Good: You know what this is like? It's like a fantastic sequel to a standard young adult novel. Shay's young adult novel: living with an alcoholic mother, having one or two friends but focusing on escape, particularly the escape of college. At the end, despite it all, she gets into college and leaves to start her own life.
And in the sequel we find that, as Buckaroo Banzai said, wherever you go, there you are. Shay cannot leave her past behind and start a new life because of her emotional baggage and her relationship with her mother. Forced to go home, forced to be again a child to her parent, Shay has to deal with her anger. Anger not just that her mother was a drunk for all those years, but anger also that Nona got her act together to be a picture-postcard-perfect mother for Sunshine. Why Sunshine and not Shay, the viewer wonders.
Nicole Beharie plays Shay with just the right mix of anger and hope, independence and longing. Shay is almost unlikable in her anger at the world and her mother. It's going to take a lot for any reconciliation to happen. Forgiveness is needed; not for Nona, but for Shay to have a full, healthy life. In a way, Shay has never left her childhood behind, and is still that hurt, sad thirteen year old whose mother disappears. Once she begins to forgive, even just a little, to trust, Shay begins to grow, and open herself up to friendship and love.
And as for Jill Scott as Nona. She steals the show. While I began watching thinking, "oh, Shay is like many a young adult novel heroine, and this is what happens when she grows up," my focus switched to Nona. Who is she? What are her demons? Look at how she has reinvented herself, saved herself. I want to know more about her.
If you like movies about mothers and daughters? About how hope and forgiveness is possible? And about how we sometimes live in jails of our own making? Watch this film.
And bonus! It's based on a book, Orange Mint and Honey: A Novel by Carleen Brice. You may also know Brice for the blog, White Readers Meet Black Authors. I've added both of Brice's fiction books to my "buy this" list.
And here is the trailer, which is what made both my mother and I sit up and say, "oh, we have to watch this!". And when I realized my cable company didn't carry Lifetime Movie Network, Mom recorded it for me.
Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy