‘Two Mothers’ explores inappropriate sex

James Frecheville, Naomi Watts and Xavier Samuel, who star with Robin Wright in "Two Mothers," at the Sundance Film Festival.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

PARK CITY, Utah — Writer-director Anne Fontaine’s “Two Mothers” is adapted from the Doris Lessing novella “Two Grandmothers,” but if you believe this Sundance Film Festival movie is a story about women of a certain age knitting sweaters for their grandkids, think again.

Starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright as best friends living in an idyllic town on the coast of Australia, “Two Mothers” is the tale of how the women end up having sexual affairs with each other’s teenage sons.

Watts plays a single mother named Lil, while Wright’s character, Roz, is married to an academic. The women and the ripped surfer boys (Xavier Samuel is Watts’s son, while James Frecheville plays Wright’s child) at the film’s opening are inseparable in a platonic way, but the plot shifts dramatically when the foursome pair off in dangerous couplings.


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Both Roz and Lil know their relationships are wrong and doomed, but the two feel happier with and more satisfied by their new lovers than they have in a very long time.

“The Mothers,” which is Fontaine’s first English-language film (she also directed “Coco Before Chanel”) generated some nervous giggles and a fair amount of unintentional laughter in its premiere Sundance screening Friday night.

While there are plenty of well-toned bodies in the film (Wright wears a bikini essentially the entire movie, and Samuel and Frecheville have body fat percentages lower than the prime rate), “Two Mothers” is less interested in sex than in the women’s personal stories.

“If two women are in a movie together, they’re usually against each other,” Watts said. “I loved that we got to explore these two women that are beautiful.”

Early reviews of the film were mixed, and several buyers after the first screening were blunt in assessing the film’s shortcomings.

One possible outcome for the film is that it could be distributed through video-on-demand channels such as iTunes and DirecTV. The star power of Watts and Wright, along with the Sundance debut, will give “Two Mothers” online lift and the provocative story line could make it a VOD hit.


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