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The Mother 2003
Description: A grandmother has a passionate affair with a boy half her age, who is also sleeping with her daughter.
Released: 18 Jun 2004 Director: Roger Michell Writers: Hanif Kureishi Actors: Anne Reid, Peter Vaughan, Anna Wilson-Jones, Daniel Craig Genres: Drama, Romance
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The Mother Reviews:

Children - of whatever age - do not wish to know about their parents' sex lives. And grown-up kids 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 explore her aching capacity and need for raw passion with a handsome boy half her age."The Mother" is a provocative look at a scarcely filmed reality - a girl 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, packages it in with a heavy heart attack.May (Anne Reid) and her husband have two children, every dysfunctional in his or her own way. The male son lives with a pretty 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 finished 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 actually bubblingly alive (dare I tell reborn?) widow. The love scenes are graphic but take second zone to amateur artist May's pen and ink sketches of their trysts which then enjoy 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 boy 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 children (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 true psychological dimensions, and issues, with a mother bedding her daughter's lover. And Paula isn't made of the stoutest items to start with. The affair, once disclosed, allows the peeling launch of the mother-daughter relationship which, from Paula's viewpoint, left something to be desired. Ms. Bradshaw is perfect in the role of a daughter who wants her mother's help as well as her love-she hasn't been dealt a poor hand by life but it isn't a bed of roses either.May is powerful 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 hard problems for her to understand, much less resolve. In her sixties, she's still a work in progress."Something's Must Give" recently showcased mature sexuality but in an amusingly antiseptic method assuring no viewer would be discomfited. After all it's Jack Nicholson and the everytime pretty Diane Keaton cavorting in the globe of the rich. And to insure that no serious psycho-social problems 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 simple 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 storyline with verve and empathy.9/10.


A fierce, shockingly clever piece of work from the gifted British writer Hanif Kureishi who wrote "My Pretty Laundrette", (this is the greatest thing he's done since then). It's about clever folks whose lives don't add up to much. They've squandered what they have been given and are largely empty vessels. The only hero on screen who is alive is the mother of the game 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 nice deal of compassion. This is a movie in which folks and territories 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 each gesture. There is not a false note in her extraordinarily lived-in performance, and that very fine actor Daniel Craig displays shadings to his hero than even Kureishi hasn't tapped into. If the movie strikes a false note it is, perhaps, in the hero of the talentless daughter, caught up in a messy affair with the boy her mother seduces (or could that be the another method round) and even messier life, but she is so well played by Cathryn Bradshaw she hooks you in nevertheless. The movie is also extremely pretty to look at (DoP Alwin Kuchler) and gotta rank, unhesitatingly, as the greatest British movie of the year.


It's difficult to imagine a director capable of such godawful crap as 'Notting Hill' pulling off something as sensitive and as pretty as this, but well, here's the evidence and it's quite compelling. Few have alluded to TV drama, and yes, this does have a seventies Enjoy for Today feel at times, but is everytime a slash 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 difficult 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" boy May's daughter tries to set her up with would be cast in 2 dimensions as a repulsive old bore, so as to mission the contrast more painfully with the attractive, virile young geezer he is unwittingly competing with. Instead, we receive 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 mission I started to sit up and pay more attention. Here was a script that allow 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 hero and with her body. She's /not/ "the repressed, dutiful housewife discovering herself for the first time", this is far too simplistic for the hero 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 nice at, ever.



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