The film starts in the home of family consisting of a teenage son, a bookworm and sometimes distant dad, and a cheery mum with an idiosyncratic penchant for writing love poems for her husband and mailing them back to the house. It's not quite paradise, but they're happy until the dog pees on a power socket and the mum is killed by the ensuing blaze.
Her husband and son struggle to cope with their loss, their grief drives a wedge between them as they realise that she was the glue that kept the family together. She leaves something of an odd legacy though when it turns out that she applied on her husband's behalf to appear on a low-brow TV show called 'Cheeky', after some deliberation he decides to go along with it - a chance to give her a good laugh if she happens to be watching over him.
David Thewlis plays Harry, the widowed husband and as you'd expect from Thewlis - his performance is loaded with laid back angst and the sense that he is a coiled spring ready to burst into either a vitriolic diatribe or tears. You get both, but mainly tears! Thewlis is the reason I watched this film, he is one of a few actors I find incredibly magnetic and it wasn't until the initial credits rolled that I knew that he both wrote and directed this film.
Less convincing was the character Sam, Harry's semi-orphaned son. Sean Ward is certainly not a poor actor but his anger never felt genuine. It's difficult for a young actor to convey such inner turmoil, and in this case it didn't come through as strongly as the script demanded.
There are a number of supporting roles in the film and these are filled by an impressive cast including Ian Hart, Eddie Marsan, and Leslie Sharp. They provide a lot of humour and there were times in the film where I laughed out loud. Comedy is a key factor of the film and there's enough to make this quite light-hearted despite the tragic aspect of a family losing a mother and wife.
In a nutshell: Although the film didn't blow me away, it does look very well directed and I hope that Thewlis spends more time at his typewriter to bring us more work in future. The end does turn into a comedy farce and finishes with a sentimental note loved by the Hollywood brigade. If the film had continued in the same vein as the first half an hour then I would have loved this, but it seems to abandon any real complexity and settles for something all-together more simple. It's worth a watch though.