Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts

Starring: Anne Reid, Daniel Craig, Cathryn Bradshaw, Steven Mackintosh, Anna Wilson-Jones

Director: Roger Michell

The latest from NOTTING HILL director Roger Michell puts inter-familial relationships under the microscope through the loss of a key family member (the husband and father), focussing on the somewhat erratic effect it has on the ageing wife and mother he has left behind.

Penned by acclaimed novelist and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi, also known for INTIMACY and MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDERETTE, THE MOTHER plays on the current penchant for 60+ women gaining a new lease of life after their husbands’ untimely demise, and their stubborn refusal to accept that their sexual life is over.

When ‘Toots’ and May visit their grown up children Bobby (Steven Mackintosh) and Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw) in London, Toots suffers a sudden heart attack and dies. May, unable to face going back to their home up North where she’ll “sit down for 20 years and end up shunted off to a retirement home”, decides much to her children’s annoyance to stay in London. But this only leaves her feeling ignored, confused and alone as she is persistently shuttled between her busy offspring, locked out of their frantic city lives.

As they all buzz off to work for the day, the only person left for company is Bobby and wife Helen’s odd builder, Darren (Daniel Craig), a free-spirited but messed up guy who also appears to have no sense of direction, coupled with a rather flexible sense of guilt and morality (unless he thinks he is doing his numerous women a favour by bedding them all).

But her husband’s death has sparked off in May an internal crisis about her past and her future, leading her need for sexual awakening and her need to look after someone (perhaps her lost children?) to fuse together unfortunately in Darren – despite the fact that her daughter is also sleeping with him.

The state of her relationships with her children, and the relationships she has created between them start to unravel – and it’s not a pretty sight.

What makes this film so interesting is its stubborn refusal to gloss over the ugliness of any of the issues it tackles from the children’s selfish rejection of their mother to what most would term her somewhat dubious actions with a man 30 years younger. What will shock most people (aside from the sex scenes between a woman in her 60s and a man in his 30s) is the relationship between mother and daughter and how it all seems to have gone so badly wrong.

Although her children are extremely selfish there are plenty of hints that May was not the best of mothers – perhaps she made them like this? The end result, quite rightly, is that the sympathies don’t really lie in one place, although Anne Reid’s brave central performance makes sure that she gains a large slice of it.

There is some cracking acting particularly from Reid in her first central role and the film feels well rounded, but this is more an intense character study rather than a film for entertainment’s sake. If you were expecting something similar to recent runaway nudey hit CALENDAR GIRLS – that it is not.

Bound to shock some, this film’s strength and joy is its bolshiness in painting a stark, bleak picture of family life and its stubborn refusal to glaze over it.

4 out of 6 stars