The Truth within The Bad Mother’s Handbook

Since the last post covered the movie I liked the least, I thought maybe I should cover one I liked the best now. The Bad Mother’s Handbook is a brilliant portrayal of what parenting means. 

When I was twenty, I found out I was pregnant the same day I found out that my fiancé had lied about everything from the amount of money he had in the bank (I didn’t care) to some life choices that could have screwed up my life medically (potentially life threatening). At the same time, I was struggling with the idea of becoming a mom and feeling wholly unprepared to take on the responsibility of another human life. I was still in college, training to be a police officer, and now I was going to be a single mom. 

The Bad Mother’s Handbook talks about just those feelings. While RP is not a main character, he is an important element to the story and probably one of the best vehicles for comic relief throughout the story. He’s awkward as hell in this. So not the sex symbol he’s become. Seriously, have you seen the new Dior campaign. Damn. Anyway…

The quick and dirty: Girl is a top student. Girl has sex with boyfriend. Boyfriend is a dick. Girl gets pregnant. Makes friends with new kid at school (RP). Friend’s dad is a doctor. Friend and girl traverse pregnancy together. Girl’s mom finds out she’s adopted. Girl’s Nan has dementia. The lives of all three women are explored, while the pregnancy progresses. Girl has baby. 

This movie is a heartwarming example of what life is truly like. The mom is pissed her daughter has thrown her life away by getting pregnant at 17. It’s a reflection of how she feels about her own life, having gotten pregnant as a teen and not had the opportunity to go forward with her education. She’s somewhat resentful of that, taking those feelings out on her daughter when it becomes apparent that the girl won’t fulfill her own potential either. 

Catherine Tate as the mother is brilliant. If you’re a Dr. Who fan, you’ll know the name. She was the quirky Donna of it all opposite David Tennant’s Doctor after losing Rose. She was comedic and deep and brilliant in the role. This movie has given me a greater appreciation for what she can do as an actor. I had the opportunity to meet her a few years ago. My son was getting a photo op with her at Pop Culture Con in Denver. We were the first in line and, as they were getting the camera equipment situated, she decided to spend that time chatting with us. She adored my kid and wanted to keep the conversation going. I was pleased to have the opportunity to tell her what a great role model I feel she is for young boys, given that her characters are not the posh, polished type and more realistic. I wish I’d seen this movie prior to that conversation because I would have added that it was important to show the psychological ramifications of parenthood. 

What Bad Mother’s Handbook does well is summarized in one of the last scenes. Catherine Tate is speaking to her daughter after the girl, on her birthday, doesn’t wake up to nurse the baby. She doesn’t have to as her momma had come and gotten him and made sure he was fed so her daughter could get some sleep. They’re sitting on the side of the bathtub as the daughter feels as though she’ll never be good enough and that someone else could do a better job of caring for the baby and CT says “You’ll hate the fact that there’s suddenly someone in your life that matters more than you do.” Not because, as mothers, we actually hate that, but because the feeling goes so deeply that it’s overwhelming and you literally feel as though you will never be good enough for this magical person that you created. 

RP is such an amazingly wonderful, awkward, brilliant character in this movie. My engagement fell apart quickly once the lies came to the surface and I was fairly certain no one would ever want me again considering the kinks I’d put in my life. It was a ridiculous notion and, now 16 years later, I’m able to see it was the combination of hormones and depression that caused my thoughts to head that direction. However, the character RP plays in this movie knows what he’s getting into from the beginning and he jumps in feet first. He’s supposedly 17 or 18 as they’re in school together and the son of a doctor. He knows what pregnancy is like. He cares, deeply, and that is reflected in the fact that he sticks around, even when she’s bitchy (hormones suck… have I mentioned that?). Even, at one point, muttering to himself that he doesn’t know why she’s being crabby with him, it’s not like he got her pregnant. He brings her chocolate on a regular basis. Chocolate is good. Best thing ever is his clinical explanation of why the chocolate will make her happier and “less of a crabby old bag”. Flirting, awkward potato level. It’s great. 

I re-watched this one this morning, having found when I sat down to write this review that I didn’t remember a lot of the specifics since it’s been over a year since I saw it the first time. Seriously, having seen them all in the past week or so, I would put this one near the top of my list. It makes me smile. It made me laugh out loud at parts. It made me teary. It made me feel and left me hopeful and happy. It’s completely British, so be prepared for that, but at only 1 hour and 12 minutes, it’s worth the time to watch it. Everything from the acting to the story makes it amazing.