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Toots and May's marriage is one of Toots being dependent on his wife. Shortly after Toots and May arrive in London to visit with their grown children Bobby and Paula and their respective children, Toots falls ill and dies. Toots' death brings to the surface the underlying strain that has always existed between May and both of her two children, and the unhappy lives they have all led. Now specifically with Paula, May is disapproving of her relationship with a construction worker named Darren. Not only does May think his occupation makes him beneath Paula, he's also a married man. Darren is in an unsatisfying marriage but doesn't want to leave it if only because of his son. Even after May gets to know and like Darren, she still encourages Paula to break up with him. The issue is is that May herself has fallen in love with Darren, the two who begin a sexual relationship. What will ultimately happen between May and Darren also depends on Darren, who is floundering in his own life and ... Written by
Tough, Touching, Sometimes Funny Encounter With a Big Taboo
Kids - of whatever age - do not want to know about their parents' sex lives. And grown-up children are often seriously baffled and disconcerted by any evidence that aging parents possess an active libido. Lastly, many moviegoers are very uncomfortable watching a dowdy, frumpy widow who would pass unnoticed almost anywhere discover her aching capacity and need for raw passion with a handsome man half her age.
"The Mother" is a provocative look at a scarcely filmed reality - a woman who isn't ready to stay home, watch "the telly," and vegetate after her husband of nearly three decades, and a controlling, dominating chap at that, packs it in with a massive heart attack.
May (Anne Reid) and her husband have two children, each dysfunctional in his or her own way. The male son lives with a beautiful wife who may well be driving him to the Bankruptcy Court with her extravagant commercial venture. Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw), is a teacher with aspirations of succeeding as a writer. She's attractive, not pretty, and she seems to have a close relationship with mum - at first.
Back at her house after burying her husband, May determines to not stay there. Rejecting typical widowhood with its legacy of boring days and no adventure, she goes to stay with Paula who has a young son. Paula's boyfriend, Darren (Daniel Craig), is a ruggedly handsome contractor who seems to be taking an awfully long time to complete an addition to May's son's house. May is quite taken with hard-drinking, coke-sniffing Darren whose treatment of Paula ought to have alerted May that he was, for sure, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Cads.
What follows is a torrid affair between Darren and the besotted and now bubblingly alive (dare I say reborn?) widow. The love scenes are graphic but take second place to amateur artist May's pen and ink sketches of their trysts which then play a role in the enfolding drama (or debacle, take your pick).
The theater in Manhattan was packed for today's early afternoon showing with well over half the audience in the range of May's age. That some were shocked or disturbed to see her disporting herself with erotic abandon in the arms of a much younger man is an understatement.
This blindingly honest look at an older woman's awakened passion after decades of dutifully obeying her husband's desire that she stay at home and raise kids (she also mentions he didn't like her to have friends-what a guy) surfaces a number of issues. While May's dalliance with Darren doesn't constitute incest, there are real psychological dimensions, and issues, with a mother bedding her daughter's lover. And Paula isn't made of the stoutest stuff to begin with. The affair, once disclosed, allows the peeling open of the mother-daughter relationship which, from Paula's viewpoint, left something to be desired. Ms. Bradshaw is excellent in the role of a daughter who wants her mother's support as well as her love-she hasn't been dealt a terrible hand by life but it isn't a bed of roses either.
May is strong in her resolve to both acknowledge her sexuality and expect, indeed demand, a future of happiness. But she is also inescapably vulnerable. She's fishing in uncharted emotional waters. Who controls her relationship with Darren and why are difficult issues for her to understand, much less resolve. In her sixties, she's still a work in progress.
"Something's Gotta Give" recently showcased mature sexuality but in an amusingly antiseptic way assuring no viewer would be discomfited. After all it's Jack Nicholson and the always beautiful Diane Keaton cavorting in the world of the rich. And to insure that no serious psycho-social issues were explored, Keaton's young girlfriend, Amanda Peet, daughter of Keaton, not only blesses the match but insures that the audience knows she and her old(er) would-be lover never hopped into the sack.
No easy out here. Anne Reid's inspired performance forces discomfort on some while drawing respect from others. Her naked body bursts with sexuality for some and appears absurd as an object of physical attraction to others (the comments of audience members leaving today reflected all these views).
Kudos to director Roger Michell for tackling a fascinating story with verve and empathy.
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