I wanted to make a stupid family drama so I started with a relatively well-worn road trip father/son premise.
Mother of God
Mother of God stars Freddie Highmore as Sam, the son of a Priest and a Nun respectively played by Ewan McGregor, and Jennifer Garner.
The basic premise is as follows. (flashback) Way back in the mid 90’s James and Mary were in love. They went to college together and were total sweethearts. One night they finally decided to consummate their love for each other and have sex. Weeks later Mary found out she was pregnant and told James. This is a huge problem because James was planning to become a priest after college and Mary a nun. Because of family pressures neither could go back on their paths. She vowed to have an abortion, and because of all that strain she moved away to join a different nunnery. James never saw her again.
We flash forward to the present and see Father James performing a mass ceremony in Jersey. He doesn’t look particularly happy, but his patrons (mostly old women) seem to really like him. Right as the mass is about to end, James sees a young man sitting in the pews. After mass he goes to the young man and introduces himself. The young man says that his name is Sam and he’s Father James’ son. James says that he has many sons in the eyes of god or some dumb stuff and Sam says that he is truly his son, and pulls out a picture of Mary. At this point James tells Sam to be very careful with what he’s saying and if it is money that he’s after, he doesn’t have any. Sam says he’s not looking for money, so James says, perhaps he should leave then.
The next day Sam comes back and sits in confession with Father James. Here he tells James the story of how Mary left James because she knew his commitment to God was so strong and that she couldn’t be a nun with a child, and how she raised Sam to be a good child and a good man, and how she passed away last month. This gets James’ attention. He asks how and the camera flashes back to her with a bald head so we can assume cancer. She’s already been buried, but she asked Sam with her final breath to meet the father he never knew. This all seems like so much so fast, but James overcome with grief decides he wants to visit her gravestone and her family etc.
It is a Monday, and James doesn’t have to be back until Sunday mass, so they decide to travel to Detroit, where Mary moved to visit her grave. As they road trip, Sam tells James stories about Mary from his perspective, and James tells Sam about Mary from his perspective, so Jennifer Garner gets a ton of flashback acting work here. It is clear that Sam and James are pretty similar people. A bunch of textbook road trip stuff happens as they drive to Detroit. They get in a bar fight, their car breaks down, and they spend a night in jail. I really don’t care how that stuff happens, just know that it does. By the time the trip to Detroit is over Sam and James have really grown closer together. When they arrive at Mary’s parent’s house, James is nervous to go in because after all these years he’s not been around. Sam brings him in and the grandparents played by Dianne Wiest and Brian Cox have different reactions to seeing him. Grandma Jill is happy to see him after all these years, but Grandpa Bob is furious with him that after all these years he decided to reach out them. He says that Mary longed for him for years and raised their kid alone, because James was too chickenshit to go after her. He hid behind his religion etc. James says he was sorry and he was scared. Bob says that doesn’t bring Mary back (though the two ideas don’t even correspond cause she died of cancer). James walks outside and says this was a mistake. Sam goes after him, but he drives off. Sam runs upstairs and it followed by Jill.
Jill sits with Sam and tells Bob to come upstairs. They sit down as a family and Jill says a bunch of stuff about how they lost a daughter, but they have the opportunity to gain a son, and Sam a father. By now it is Friday and James will be leaving the next day to get back for Mass in time. James comes back to the house the next day and apologizes for never trying to find her, but he thought she hadn’t forgiven him for the abortion and he felt like he had to atone for his sins by staying out of her life. She was the only person who ever made him question his path in life and he thought that was dangerous, but now he sees that was true love. He’s lost her, but he’ll think about her everyday. Bob and Jill forgive him and Sam does as well because he’s all Sam has left. Bob and Jill are getting older and have no other family. James asks Sam to come back with him, he doesn’t know what the church will say, but he doesn’t care. He’s not losing his son again. Sam can’t because Bob and Jill don’t have anyone else and they are getting old. He helps take care of them. James then decides that he’ll come back every few months and send money in the meantime (he doesn’t have any, but whatever, he’s a priest), and they all agree that James there sometimes is better than not at all.
We see Saturday evening that it’s too late for James to drive back in time for mass, and he says he’ll use his discretionary funds to just book a red eye flight in the morning. The family is bonding looking at pictures of Mary and then a flashback scene of the first time Mary and James met happens. As we come out of the flashback we see the camera focus onto James, while everyone else is talking in the background. We see he’s realizing, these are his people. He has a responsibility to them. The next morning Sam comes downstairs to James making them all pancakes and tells James he’ll miss his flight if he doesn’t leave now. James says he doesn’t care about that. He’s exactly where he wants to be. Jill and Bob come downstairs and he tells them that he is staying. He’ll get a job teaching in a school, but if having a son means he can’t be a priest, so be it. The film closes on another flashback of Mary. Mary brought them all together and stuff, and we see a random scene of James and Mary when they were younger running in a field. The camera fixes onto Mary, and fades to black.