In Mommy or Daddy?, a current issue is exposed through the lives and testimonies of those who have suffered from it since they were born. Japan is perhaps the only country in modern times that has no laws pertaining to joint custody. This means that, if a couple decides to separate, the child usually lives with one of them, and the other one is erased from the child’s life. Absolutely eliminated to the point of suppression.
The film directed by John H. LaDue Jr. and Jennifer LaDue Miyagawa consists of many stories told at once, but it’s mainly focused on Rie. Rie was divorced from her husband and hasn’t seen her son in 12 years. She dreams of him and hopes to see him again at some point in her life. She was a child raised in a home where she wasn’t allowed to see her mother for a long time.
Rie decides to do something. From trying to understand the legal aspect of this absurd problem to becoming a social worker that treats children under similar circumstances. The documentary is the story of how she enters the universe of the solution and as far as it seems, there’s nothing but hope in her journey through an inexplicable absence of consideration.
For a little under an hour, the directors try to make us part of this situation. Japan looks like a country straight out of the future, with its insane treatment of spaces and light. But Rie’s problem is much more primitive and complex. She seems out of place because she cannot perform the basic role of motherhood through realization. She can only imagine how it is to be a mother of a child. This very intimate take is the reason behind such a powerful film.
Animated sequences help the audience to put together an image of trauma absurdly organized and premeditated in modern times. Mommy or Daddy? isn’t only a harrowing depiction of a current issue, but also one that’s been kept in the table as logical for decades. When the reason behind such a decision is exposed, it seems acceptable up to a degree, but like the film implies, there are many forms of abuse. Extricating children from a world where parents exist is one of them.
There’s a narrow minded view that couples must stay together because of children. Because they’re supposed to have their parents close. However, this could also result in some sort of emotional trauma for parents. So, why not avoid this altogether and come to an agreement between all sides? Why is it so hard to agree on something?
Mommy or Daddy? is a revealing argument for trying to come to terms with the beginning of a solution. After all, the first step is realizing there’s an issue and modern societies should be pioneers in this matter, right?