|Page 1 of 6:||     |
|Index||53 reviews in total|
Of all the films I have seen this year (2004), none has affected me as
deeply and personally as "The Mother", and on so many levels.
For one thing, watching May deal with the grief and loss and sudden disorientation of widowhood, I could not help wondering how my own mother will cope when the time comes, as it surely must, for her and indeed for all of us.
But, as May's story unfolded, it was my own sense of grief and loss and disorientation that I experienced anew. May and I share something in common: not widowhood, but age, or rather the loss of youth, and the invisibility and untouchability that come with age.
I could relate to May's need for passion, her need to be loved, her need, not so much for sex, but simply to be touched. But as we grow older, we are ironically shut out and shunted aside and denied the very thing our souls cry out for. (Note: There are some disturbing and shocking images of sexuality in "The Mother", but don't let them put you off and blind you to the real message of the film.)
May, at least, rediscovers another passion within -- to create art -- and so is able to live again. Not all of us are so fortunate. In this respect, I identify more with May's daughter Paula who, when love and passion fail and die, feels that her creative expression is no longer valid and worthwhile, and destroys her works in a fit of despair.
May is a woman in her late 60s; I am a gay man in my late 40s. Yet our stories are similar in so many ways. What May experiences in a matter of weeks, I have felt over the past decade. My passion has yet to be rediscovered.
It is no accident that "The Mother" was scripted by Hanif Kureishi, who gave us "My Beautiful Laundrette", a love story about two gay men in the flower of youth. "The Mother" is at the other end of the spectrum, a story about age and the denial of passion. To paraphrase the title of another Kureishi film, "The Mother" might aptly be titled "Sammy and Rosie Get Old".
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.
It's hard to imagine a director capable of such godawful crap as
'Notting Hill' pulling off something as sensitive and as attractive as
this, but well, here's the evidence and it's quite compelling. Several
have alluded to TV drama, and yes, this does have a seventies Play for
Today feel at times, but is always a cut above, mainly I think owing to
some quite superlative acting from Anne Reid and to a fine script which
shadow-boxes with cliché without ever getting one on the nose, except
maybe right at the end. (I didn't like either the tracking shot of
indifferent goodbyes through the hallway, nor the
oh-what-a-beautiful-morning final scene: she deserved a more studied
finale than that I think, after all that hard work. The slippers
business was a bit OTT too, on reflection).
What I mean about avoiding cliché: well, I for one had a sinking expectation that the "mature" man May's daughter tries to set her up with would be cast in 2 dimensions as a repulsive old bore, so as to point the contrast more painfully with the attractive, virile young geezer he is unwittingly competing with. Instead, we get an unexpectedly subtle and sympathetic cameo of a lonely, clumsy, not entirely unlikeable and very human fellow, who nevertheless doesn't have much of a clue about entertaining a woman. It was around that point I started to sit up and pay more attention. Here was a script that let the actors breathe and do something interesting with fairly minor parts. Almost Mike Leigh in that respect (minus the contrived catharses that the latter inexplicably goes in for).
And of course I was, as everyone probably was, dumbfounded by what Anne Reid does with her character and with her body. She's /not/ "the repressed, dutiful housewife discovering herself for the first time", this is far too simplistic for the character we have. Again and again there are allusions to her having been a "bad housewife", not to mention that thing she does with trays, trying to look nurturing and comely and only succeeding in looking awkward. The daughter accuses her of having "sat in front of the TV all day" instead of, well, whatever her motherly duties might be presumed to have been: she has no answer. She never was a model wife and mother, at least not to herself - that's where a lot of the poignancy comes from, the sense of someone having wasted a life trying to fulfil a role she simply wasn't good at, ever.
A fierce, shockingly intelligent piece of work from the gifted British
writer Hanif Kureishi who wrote "My Beautiful Laundrette", (this is the
best thing he's done since then). It's about intelligent people whose
lives don't add up to much. They've squandered what they have been
given and are largely empty vessels. The only character on screen who
is alive is the mother of the title yet she feels dead inside until a
rough handyman shows her some affection and awakens her to the joys of
sex. He has his own motives but Kureishi treats him with a good deal of
compassion. This is a film in which people and places feel familiar,
where characters exist beyond the confines of the screen. In some
respects it's a bit like "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" but it's an altogether
tougher piece of work. The director, Roger Michell, allows scenes to
build instinctively. And it is beautifully acted.
As the eponymous mother Anne Reid betrays her wasted life in every gesture. There is not a false note in her extraordinarily lived-in performance, and that very fine actor Daniel Craig displays shadings to his character than even Kureishi hasn't tapped into. If the film strikes a false note it is, perhaps, in the character of the talentless daughter, caught up in a messy affair with the man her mother seduces (or should that be the other way round) and even messier life, but she is so well played by Cathryn Bradshaw she hooks you in nevertheless. The film is also extremely beautiful to look at (DoP Alwin Kuchler) and must rank, unhesitatingly, as the best British film of the year.
"The Mother" is a raw unpeeling of relationships between older parents and
adult children in a very contemporary take on the British "kitchen sink
Every character is baldly selfish to the point of startling brutality. Each one responds to attempted openings of lines of communication with "But what about me?"
The naturalism is palpably realistic, such that when Hanif Kureish's script crosses a line to go a bit over the top it's upsetting and jarring.
Director Roger Michell is particularly good at capturing the domestic mise en scene of sounds -- from simultaneous conversations to children's chatter -- and sights, such as lingering over meaningful visuals from a pair of old slippers to a casually bare torso.
Anne Reid gives the gutsiest older woman performance since Kathy Bates in "About Schmidt" and Helen Mirren in "Calendar Girls," but those were mostly played for laughs and didn't reveal the painful de-layering of inhibitions. Her character's continued low self-esteem to the point of accepting abuse is difficult to watch.
Except for a very atypical appearance in the first "Lara Croft," Daniel Craig has avoided depending on his magnetic hunkiness on screen. Here, as in "Sylvia," his manliness is a protean catalyst for the plot. In a complex triangle of relationships, his carpenter obliges the other characters' obsessions to project their fantasies and needs on to him.
While the grandmother finds some independence and self-respect, I'm not optimistic about the grandchildren in this dysfunctional family.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
[WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS]
I have this adult friend for whom the notion that her parents have sex makes her terribly uneasy. She came to mind when I reflected on the audience's reaction to "The Mother."
People gasped when May (Anne Reid) writhed passionately in bed with her younger hunk lover, Darren (Daniel Craig) or later saw sexually explicit drawings by May. I doubt the audience was aghast at the nudity or the drawings' content as much as feeling uneasy at seeing a woman in her 60s rapturously enjoying sex.
Screenwriter Hanif Kureishi ("My Beautiful Laundrette," "My Son the Fanatic") again proves why he's among the most trenchant storytellers on either side of the Atlantic. His story's not easy to take. This searing family drama isn't a film you can claim you enjoyed watching because it's raw, complex, and often makes us very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it's powerfully good stuff.
Kureishi and Roger Michell (who directed "Notting Hill," of all things) craft an unsentimental, wrenching and superbly-acted portrait of an older woman who realizes, after all these years, she can and should still enjoy all of life's pleasures. In a wonderfully epiphanous moment, when her son, Bobby, asks her not to be difficult, May shoots back, "Why not?"
Why not, indeed.
Anne Reid deserves an Oscar nomination for her turn as May. It's subtle, restrained, powerful and sad, often all at the same time. Watch Reid when May observes Darren and Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw) in a seemingly passionate clutch in a pub. Or, when she begs Paula to open the front door after a disastrous date. Reid's eyes and face reveal all of May's anguish and despair. In the film's most devastating moment, May drops to her knees before Darren, willing to do anything for him, only asking him to be kind. This is a tremendously gutsy performance by a remarkable actress.
I enjoyed Michell's use of natural sound, especially when May and Toots first arrive at Bobby's place. It perfectly illustrated the cacophony around May and Toots, the flippant manner in which their own family welcomes them.
This film, at times, reminded me of the honesty and rawness of Mike Leigh's work, except "The Mother" hangs on to a slight sense of optimism to keep afloat.
My one quibble: Michell's decision to give May and Darren's first love scene an almost cheesy sensibility. The lovers remain out of focus while, in the foreground, a white curtain flutters gently in the breeze. And the only sound is of May in the throes of passion.
The problem with Michell's approach is that both Reid and Craig, who completely envelops the role of Darren, plough their way so fearlessly into these roles that it's unfair to hide their characters' almost primitive energy from the audience. Especially since Michell has no qualms about making later sex scenes visceral.
This film doesn't have immensely likable characters. We sympathize with May, but she, too, causes her daughter's suffering. But I doubt Kureishi intended to people his story with likable folk. His point, I believe, was to unmask a family that's already cracking when something emotionally cataclysmic happens. It's unflinching in its candor and ultimately unforgettable.
'The Mother' is that extraordinary piece of film making - it gets you thinking, it pulls no punches - and ultimately it leaves you thinking. Very much open-ended as to the lead character's fate. Anne Reid (which I only knew briefly from her appearances in some Victoria Wood-led projects and thought a fine comedienne) is truly superb here. Not the stereotypical widowed housewife that was perfect in marriage and motherhood at all. And not all that free-spirited and adventurous at first. She plays her character just with the right note that rings true (well, it did to me). Powerful cast. Great script. Renaissance of European cinema indeed ;)
There's a very fine review by law prof on these pages and not much for
me to add. Ann Reid puts in a superb performance as the middle-aged mum
whose desires are re-awakened by her bullying husband's sudden death
and Daniel Craig plays the Rough Trade tradesman with great gusto.
There's also a wonderful cameo from Oliver Ford Davies as an elderly
and inept suitor for Mum's hand. The story is told very clearly with
sparkling photography the cheerful visual atmosphere being rather at
odds with the grim storyline.
My problem however with the film is that everyone in it is either completely repulsive (eg the son and daughter in law and the rough tradesman) or is behaving badly. Mum is a sympathetic character but she makes all the wrong choices, and behaves pretty selfishly, though we do get an inkling as to why. She wouldn't be the first Mum to kick over the traces after a long marriage to a dominant partner. But we wind up feeling sorry for her daughter rather than Mum because she gets done over, not because she is otherwise sympathetic.
The trouble with movies like this that, though they are true to life and emotionally convincing, they leave an unpleasant aftertaste. Are we all that selfish and immature? Well, families are dangerous places and the majority of murders are committed by a member of the victim's families, but relatively speaking murder is a rare crime. Competition between mother and daughter for the same (trashy) lover is probably pretty rare also. When it does happen, a film about it is probably justified. Still, at the end we wind up with no-one to like, which rather muffles the impact of the story.
Although at one point I thought this was going to turn into The
Graduate, I have to say that The Mother does an excellent job of
explaining the sexual desires of an older woman.
I'm so glad this is a British film because Hollywood never would have done it, and even if they had, they would have ruined it by not taking the time to develop the characters.
The story is revealed slowly and realistically. The acting is superb, the characters are believably flawed, and the dialogue is sensitive. I tried many times to predict what was going to happen, and I was always wrong, so I was very intrigued by the story.
I highly recommend this movie. And I must confess, I'll forever look at my mom in a different light!
A woman left alone after the death of her husband finds herself attracted to
her son's friend and handy man. In a slightly twisted story, the woman
begins sleeping with the handy man in an effort to revive herself. The
twisted part? The handy man is also her daughter's on and off love
As if this wasn't strange enough, the mother manages to fall for this man and when her daughter finds out, she blames not only her dysfunctional relationship but also her messed up life on her poor mother.
Though you may think badly of this woman, the truth is movie manages to portray her in a positive light. Beautifully played by Anne Reid, this character has dimension and portrays great emotion.
A truly brilliant performance and an enjoyable film.
|Page 1 of 6:||     |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||Newsgroup reviews||External reviews|
|Parents Guide||Official site||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|