As the film opens, we see the hazy outlines of a baby amidst rumpled bedsheets and bed covers in a light blue and white background. Gradually the camera pans out, revealing the face of a woman in bed. It's that of Natalie Portman, the winner of the Academy Award for best actress last year for her performance in Black Swan. Here, she plays the role of Emilia Greenleaf in Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, adapted by the director Don Roos from a novel of the same name by Ayelet Waldman (2006).
In the next scene, we're shown Emilia going to a nursery school on a Wednesday afternoon to pick up a "difficult" young kid William, (played by Charlie Tahan) who said he only wanted his dad but not her. There she was shunned by all the other mothers as the woman intruder who broke up what they thought was William's fairy tale upper middle class family. But she still tried to do her best to be "nice" to him. He appeared a precocious child and knew lots of stuff about various subjects which interested him. Whilst there, she was met by the maid of William's mother who gave very specific directions on the kind of medicine that William was to take for his cough and when and how, suggesting the antics of a "control freak", perhaps the cause of why her ex finding it impossible to continue living with her. Once they were home, he suggested that she sell on E-Bay all the stuffs belonging to Isabel, her baby daughter by her recently divorced and newly-wedded husband Jack. This got on to her nerve and she freaked out, though she immediately apologised. She never really got over losing Isabel, who died of SIDs in her arms on the first day she brought her home from the maternity hospital . Emilia, a law graduate of Harvard law school whose divorced father was an eminent judge and former chairman of the New York Bar., was a junior partner of a New York law firm who fell in love with its senior partner, now her husband Jack (played by Scot Cohen). However, with time, William grew to like Emilia but Emilia never forgave her own father for deserting her own mother for a Russian dancer. To her, one may be polite and civil and tolerant and loving but there are certain limits over which one should never over-step.
As the film developed, we are shown how she had to cope with her guilt about losing her baby, her understandable hatred of her father and William's mother Carolyne Soule (played by Lisa Kudrow), a famous surgeon and an expert in insinuation who never forgave Emilia for taking away her ex-husband and who took every opportunity to poison William's mind against her and to insult her and how hard she tried to win over William or at least disarm his hostility towards her. The emotional strains of such difficult circumstances inevitably took its toll. After a particularly bad quarrel, she left Jack and William. At the end of the film she confessed to Jack that it was she who smothered her own baby. Jack immediately had the autopsy report re-examined by Carolyne's expert friend to see if it was consistent with artificial asphyxia and he confirmed that her baby indeed died of SIDs and there was no evidence at all that Emilia could have smothered her as she thought and in addition, gave all the technical forensic reasons for that conclusion. Upon hearing the results from Jack, she immediately went to see Carolyne, who despite her dislike of Emilia, reaffirmed her concurrence with her friend's professional judgement. The film ends with William not wanting to go to his mother's second wedding without Emilia and Emilia forgiving her dad and we are shown how she finally agreed to sell all the things she had bought for her deceased daughter which she never got the chance to use and how she reluctantly packed up everything she had bought in anticipation of her baby daughter Isabel's needs and then watching William play with a toy boat she bought for Isabel which she now gave him as a gift at Central Park and how her mother got all flustered about going out on a "date" with her father: a typical Hollywood style good ending.
It was a story of the trials and tribulations of an obviously intelligent and sensitive woman whose life was ruined by the shadow of the death of her own daughter and the strains it caused in her relationship with her husband and his child of a former marriage. Natalie Portman's acting was as usual excellent. The film, produced in 2009, is scripted and directed by Don Roos and co-produced by him and Natalie Portman. Both the cinematography and the music are unremarkable. But it was a good way to spend an evening after the early termination of the Art HK 11 at 5 p.m. instead of the usual 7 p.m.