By Ali Mushtaq
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 2/15/21 – When Gloria Williams suffers a miscarriage due to a sequence of stress-induced traumas, she is driven to commit a selfish, deplorable act that robs a woman of her first child in order to compensate for the loss of her own. Eighteen years later, a courtroom decides whether it was the result of a series of mitigating factors that sent her sleepwalking into a callous crime, or a cold, calculated act that saw her enter a Florida hospital and leave with an eight-hour-old baby.
Stolen By My Mother manages to delicately counterbalance the unforgivable gravity of such an abhorrent act against the complex psychological factors that motivate the perpetrator, Williams, to commit this crime. The film touches upon the extreme outcomes that can arise from a combination of violence and domestic abuse, fear of losing a partner, miscarriage, and the overwhelming human instinct to love and be loved – sometimes no matter what the cost.
Emmy award-winning actress Niecy Nash plays Williams, a daunting task which she herself admits was a challenge, but who courageously delivers a very difficult role. The role of Shanara Mobley is portrayed with an unforgettable impact by Ta’Rhonda Jones. After eight-hour-old Kamiyah has been kidnapped from her, Mobley’s visceral suffering rattles through the screen with the force of a subway train.
Sympathetically written by Richard Kletter and Michele Samit and directed by Jeffrey W. Byrd (Malcolm X), the characters’ equipoised compassion enables us to witness the course of events from a balanced vantage point. It would be easy to subject Williams to unrelenting vilification based on the crime she committed. Instead, the film takes a controversial angle by centralizing the story on Williams and her relationship with Kamiyah.
An intelligent narrative urges us to pause and consider the emotional complexities of this case, to draw our own conclusions by questioning the motives and witnessing the consequences, and to evaluate the very essence of human psychology. We are shown that crimes aren’t as simple as a case of good versus bad; that the perpetrator’s life needs to be considered in our understanding of the why, and that will lead us to the how – and the how can go some way to prevent this from happening to others.
Our sympathy for Williams evolves slowly, as one would expect; but as we are familiarized with her, it is a sense of sadness and disappointment in her we feel rather than outright hatred. We detest her for what she did, but we also have to accept that she was, whether we like it or not, a devoted mother; the upstanding character of Gloria clashes with her crime.
“This is so unlike you” splutters husband Charles (Garfield Wilson) incredulously when Williams confesses. We follow the course of emotions that ravage him, finally having to accept that his wife – a well-respected member of the local church, a dedicated and loving mother, and a strong, hardworking, and inspirational woman – was capable of such a shocking crime.
And this is exactly the point the film strives to make. It presents to us the hazy dichotomy between good and evil and reminds us that the lines easily become blurred. The film leaves us questioning the diversity of character we all possess at different stages in our lives, and crucially, in extreme circumstances. Character is not indelible; our behavior changes according to circumstance. The film subtlety suggests that we should view each other with a fair, unbiased view that can sometimes help to explain people’s otherwise unimaginable actions.
The scenes in which we see Williams incarcerated after her crime is revealed are especially emotional; we watch a distraught Kamiyah touching the glass, tears streaming down her face, the pain palpable as she vehemently rejects Williams’ urges to embrace her true family. As Williams is lead away, Kamiyah is consumed with grief, battling with the loss of whom she thought was her mother, the loss of her own identity, the loss of her entire life as she knew it. And suddenly, she has the unimaginable challenge of confronting the family she never knew she had.
Rayven Simone Ferrell gives a particularly astonishing performance as Kamiyah/Alexis. Ferrell morphs from a sunny, vibrant, nonchalant young woman to one who visibly walks beneath a dark cloud that will hang over her for the rest of her life. Whilst she embarks upon building relationships with her natural family, tensions rise between herself and Mobley, who cannot accept her daughter’s devotion to her abductor.
Intelligently written, beautifully composed, and artistically shot, this is a gripping, absorbing, and emotionally difficult film that will have you weeping whether you are a mother or not.