The Mother


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

No quickie run-through of plot pointers can do justice to the exquisite look of The Mother. Director Roger Michell has surpassed himself in creating a collage of cinematic snapshots, culminating in a true expression of London's upwardly mobile thirtysomething lifestyle, in which privately educated kids are selfish and smart, relationships are nurtured by money and ambition, and love makes demands on working parents.

May (Anne Reid) and Toots (Peter Vaughan) leave their quiet suburban home to visit son Bobby (Steven Mackintosh) and daughter Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw) and the grandchildren. Nothing could be more ordinary and, for the offspring, so stressful. Paula's a neurotic single mum, trying to be a writer, while mentaining a meaningful relationship with Darren (Daniel Craig), a college friend of Bobby's, who has become a carpenter rather than compromise his free spirit in the shark infested waters of commerce. Bobby's wife Helen (Anna Wilson Jones) has opened a shop, selling all things cashmere. She's enthusiastic about it, which is more than can be said for Bobby, who sees his investment draining away.

What might have been a satirical dig at the paper thin principals of yuppie culture is far more difficult and dangerous. Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, The Buddha Of Suburbia) has written a superb script that refuses to mock the weaknesses and delusions of a society that finds old age a betrayal of hope.

Superficially, these lives are well contained and enviable and yet beneath the surface anger and jealousy and insecurity thrive. May's attempt at helping Paula sort out her fractuous affair with a man whose idea of commitment is what he feels at the time leads to areas of sexual experimentation that are surprising and graphic.

Kureishi has grasped the nettle and Michell compliments his courage with an elegance reflected by Alwin Kuchler's exquisite photography. Reid allows May to evolve from badgered wife and guilt-burdened mother to a woman of independence, without a hint of caracature, while Bradshaw is delightfully frantic and Craig finds a vulnerability in Darren that exposes his reckless self-confidence.

At a time when rom-coms have taken over the planet and sex is treated like spagetti sauce, The Mother is for grown ups.

Reviewed on: 13 Nov 2003
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The Mother packshot
A suburban housewife comes to London and discovers that grief has unexpected benefits.
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Director: Roger Michell

Writer: Hanif Kureishi

Starring: Anne Reid, Daniel Craig, Cathryn Bradshaw, Steven Mackintosh, Anna Wilson-Jones, Oliver Ford Davies, Peter Vaughan

Year: 2003

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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