Mother's Day 2021: 7 Films About Complex and Layered Mother-child Bonds

·4-min read

While our Mothers should be celebrated everyday, there is one special dedicated to them every year. There are several films which celebrate the unique bond between a mother and her children. However, sometimes this bond can be layered, complicated and even strained. On Mother’s Day today, here’s a look at a few rare films which realistically portray this complex relationship.

Tribhanga: Tedhi Medhi Crazy

This Netflix film starring Kajol, Tanvi Azmi and Mithila Palkar dared to be different in an industry where mother figures are usually revered. Directed by Renuka Shahane, this film deals with three generations of women in a family and how one relationship affects the other. The film depicts intergenerational trauma with a lot of honesty.

Lady Bird

This 2018 Oscars Best Picture nominee will break your heart. At first glance, Lady Bird looks like a nice coming-of-age story about a rebellious teen who is trying to find herself. However, the heart of the story lies in Lady Bird’s relationship with her mother Marion. One moment they are friends and in the other, they are at each other’s throats. Lady Bird wants to go to New York for college but her mother thinks she is only as good as their local community college. The rift between the two increases till it’s quite late.

English Vinglish

Sridevi’s English Vinglish is one of the most heartwarming films in the list. Yes, it is about a woman finding her worth, but it is also about her navigating a distant and disrespectful family. Shashi, a caterer and homemaker cannot speak in English, and her husband and daughter usually mock her for that. Shashi’s relationship with her husband is that of a wife who is taken for granted by her borderline misogynistic husband. However, it is the blatant disrespect by her daughter which makes the film so heartbreaking. When Shashi finds her worth and takes a stand, it makes us all feel jubilant. A brilliant performance by the late icon, English Vinglish is unforgettable.

Raising Helen

Raising Helen is at first glance a light and breezy romantic comedy. However, it actually is the story of self-actualization. We see not one, but two mothers in the film. The first is Kate Hudson’s Helen Harris, who suddenly has to care for three children when her sister Lindsay and brother-in-law die in an accident. On the other hand is Helen’s oldest sister Jenny Harris, who had to raise Lindsay and Helen from a young age. Helen has to choose between her fancy lifestyle and her kids and eventually feels burnt out and depressed. She also has to deal with the teenage Audrey, who is the most difficult. On the other hand, there is Jenny, who feels betrayed by Lindsay for not naming her as the guardian of the kids. Raising Helen is a reminder of all that mothers do, without being preachy.

Dil Dhadakne Do

Why is an out-and-out family entertainer about a rich family on a cruise, in this list? Because Dil Dhadakne Do has such a nuanced and layered character in the form of Shefali Shah’s Neelam Mishra. While the focus is on her staying in an unhappy and adulterated marriage, she is also shown as having a complex relationship with her children. With her son Kabir, she is both indulgent and manipulative, with Aysha, she is distant and difficult. She doesn’t understand Aysha and vice versa. Of course, all is well in the end, but it is still interesting to watch a character like Neelam grow in the film.


Disney films usually never portray mothers in a grey shade, which is just another reason why Brave is such a different film than the lot. The film is technically about Princess Merida trying to change her destiny but her relationship with her mother is a big catalyst for her action. For starters, her mother Queen Elinor disapproves of her Archery skills. She also practically forces Merida into an arranged marriage. However, when Merida’s actions lead to chaos and Elinor is turned into a bear by a witch, she finally starts understanding her mother.


A film based on the real life story of Indian-Australian businessman Saroo Brierly, Lion in a story of a little boy who accidentally gets separated from his biological family. After a traumatic stay at an orphanage, he gets adopted by an Australian family. However, after 25 years he tries to find his real family. The film deals with many layered issues such as race and identity. Saroo’s relationship with his mother Sue makes the film even more complex. Sue has to come to terms with the fact that her son wants to find his biological mother. On the other hand, Saroo despite having love and admiration for her, admits that he feels out of place with his white family.

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