A young woman grieves her infant's death while struggling to be a good stepmother and wife. Emilia Greenleaf, a newly hired young attorney, begins an affair with Jack Woolf, a married coworker, and becomes pregnant. Realizing that they are in love, Emilia and Jack decide to get married. The story skips ahead by a year or so and we then see in flashbacks that Emilia gave birth to an infant named Isabel who died at only three days old, of S.I.D.S. (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Emilia no longer works at the law firm and instead spends her days grieving and trying to bond with her young stepson, William.
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Emilia frequently encounters Jack's resentful ex-wife Caolyn as she ferries William back and forth from school and his mother's house. Carolyn openly dislikes Emilia and blames her for the dissolution of her own marriage to Jack. Emilia is treated as a pariah by the mothers of Williams classmates because they know her as the other woman.
Being just a child, William does not understand what Emilia is going through emotionally. He attempts to help by suggesting that she sell baby Isabel's stroller and other belongings on eBay. Emilia is extremely hurt by this and snaps at him. When Jack gets home he tries to hear both sides of the story and Emilia feels slighted.
Emilia suspects that Carolyn is an uptight, overprotective mother. When Emilia tries to make an effort with William by taking him out for ice cream, he protests that his mother says he is lactose intolerant. Emilia does not believe Carolyn's assessment and tells lies to the boy, saying the ice cream is special. At first he is fine and they share a conspiratorial moment. But later, at a birthday party, William becomes ill and soils his pants, humiliating himself. Carolyn is infuriated with Emilia's actions and says she no longer trusts Emilia to be alone with William, pointing out that Emilia's own baby died.
The next day, Emilia learns from the birthday party's host that several children got sick from spoiled hummus. Emilia rushes to school to tell William it was not the ice cream that sickened him.
Carolyn announces that she is pregnant. Emilia feels Carolyn has times her own pregnancy as a rebuke to Emilia. Emilia and Jack's marriage suffers because of tensions with Carolyn and because of Emilia's grief. Emilia is no longer able to keep a terrible secret to herself and breaks down. She tells Jack that the night Isabel died, the baby was not in the crib as Emilia had said when Jack awoke. Though Jack had reminded Emilia to place the infant in the crib, Emilia had fallen asleep nursing her daughter and believes she may have accidentally suffocated her in her sleep.
Jack cannot handle the force of Emilia's emotions and the two split up. Emilia gets a job in legal aid, where she worked before meeting Jack, and spends time with old friends. Her friend Mindy also announces a pregnancy, and Emilia tries to be happy for her, despite the pain.
Carolyn telephone Emilia and asks her to come to her office. Carolyn, a pediatrician, tells Emilia that Jack shared Emilia's concerns with her, and that she has gone over Isabel's autopsy. In fact, she also had a friend who is a forensic pathologist go over the results as well. She tells Emilia that she unequivocally did not kill her own baby. Seeing Emilia crumble under a wave of emotion, Carolyn visibly softens toward her and even touches her shoulder lightly as she leaves her alone to pull herself together.
Jack calls Emilia to help with William in a pinch and though he says he is not ready to be with her again, it is evident that he still has feelings for her. On the day that Carolyn's new baby is born, Emilia takes William to Central Park and gives him a boat to put in the water. She realizes that she really has come to love William and tells him that.
Jack tells Emilia that he would like to start slow and try again. Emilia confronts her grief and begins to make peace with her loss by attending a walk in the park for families who have lost children.
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved how sadness, longing, love and frustration come over the characters in waves in this film. Everyone is the story feels hurt and tries to reach out, only to hurt each other again. Despite this, they manage to make peace with each other a bit by the end.
Best scene in story:
The scene in which Carolyn tells Emilia that she is not at fault in the death of her baby affected me deeply. Natalie Portman was extremely convincing as a mother suffering deeply, and Lisa Kudrow did a masterful job at portraying complicated emotions in that scene.
Opinion about the main character:
Emilia Greenleaf was very relatable. She starts out so young and inexperienced and just goes for what she wants (Jack Woolf), without any understanding of what it will mean to be a second wife, stepmother, or mother. She has no idea what she is getting into and the vulnerability is heartbreaking.