Though it is a well crafted film with wonderful actors, I'm not much of a fan of this movie's messages. Its main characters believe that uninhibited folk who feel free to go about their house nude in front of their kids represent a more enlightened form of humanity than the more modest (sexually repressed?). In this era where child molestation by step fathers & live in boyfriends is all too common, it casts the boyfriend's admittedly well intended behaviour in a sympathetic light; he's the misunderstood & tarnished victim of the piece. My main complaint, however, is that the film supports the misguided notion that this wonderful new sexual discovery this mother is experiencing should be at least as important in her life as her child.
The story revolves around a laboratory worker & part time piano teacher, Anna, who is divorced from her husband, Brian, a lawyer, and has custody of their young daughter, Molly. Anna embarks upon a passionate affair with Leo, a sculptor, and basks in her newfound sexual discovery. One day Molly curiously & innocently inquires whether she might touch Leo's penis. He consents, so as to convey to her that there is nothing shameful or embarrassing about one's body. However, the ex-husband, Brian, learns of the event and sues for custody, declaring Anna an unfit mother. The acting is superb, with Diane Keaton compelling as Anna and Liam Neeson charismatic & appealing as the bohemian Irish lover, Leo.
True, no one in this story means any harm, with the possible exception of Brian who may simply be vindictive. On the other hand, what father in his right mind wouldn't sue for custody if confronted with this tale? It is indeed heart wrenching that Anna loses custody of the daughter she dearly loves, but frankly, she put her own sexual fulfillment ahead of her maternal role. Call me old fashioned, but I have a BIG problem with lovers living in or boyfriends sleeping over in any case, but especially where children are involved. Anna & Leo definitely shouldn't be having sex in the same bed with Molly, whether she's sleeping or not. Leo is kind to Molly, but his behaviour here is ill advised at best, and one cannot blame the courts for coming down on the side of the situation's obvious appearance.
There are certainly wonderful step people so I don't want to tar everyone with the same brush, but there's also far too much child molestation going on in second marriages & love relationships. The biological parent must assume absolute responsibility for ensuring that their new love interest isn't victimizing their child. Leo is perfectly innocent here, but Anna hasn't known him long and she's pretty trusting in leaving him alone with her little girl. Frankly, if mothers were a little less trusting of their new boyfriends AND PUT THEIR CHILD FIRST, there might be a lot less abuse going on.
As another noted, I think the moral of the story is that if the mother wants to live a bohemian lifestyle, she should be very leery of involving her child. Frankly as I see it, unlike the 'Me first' philosophy of modern society, a 'good mother' is willing to make some sacrifices and most definitely puts the interests of her child ahead of her own love life. That's not true here of Anna, who's totally caught up in her newfound passions and alas, pays the price. This is NOT a movie that doesn't provide a viewpoint, as another has claimed. It DOES have a viewpoint. The producers' obvious intent here is to have the viewer totally sympathize with Anna, this caring & dedicated mother, and to see both her & her misunderstood lover as the tragic victims of injustice. As always, the real victim here is the child.