Customer Review

63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Ensemble Cast, 7 Jun 2004
This review is from: The Mother [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Following the death of her husband - Toots, May (the beautiful Anne Reid) suddenly feels surplus to the busy, self-absorbed lives of her two children. Daughter Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw) is too busy trying to break up the marriage of lover, Darren and berating everyone for not indulging her meagre writing talent to acknowledge her mother's grief. Son, Bobby (the very under-rated Stephen Mackintosh) lets May move in with his family for a while (out of a need for a babysitter rather than any form of compassion) but his business is crumbling and he's rarely there.

Trapped in the unfamiliarity of London but too scared to go home, May wanders the streets, enjoying the freedom to get lost and generally tries to avoid confrontation with both her offspring and her grief. The only person who shows any form of sympathy towards her is Paula's lover, Darren who chats to her as he builds a conservatory at her son's house. Paula pushes them together with a mind to her mother picking his brains about whether he's going to leave his wife or not.

The couple immediately form a bond whereby they can both express how lost they feel, how they both long to escape and all the other things that her children's obsession with materialism seems to have made them immune to. Despite an age difference of over 30 years, May and Darren become lovers. He is fascinated by her earthy complexity; she finds her inner youth and passion reawakened, sadly all-too briefly.

This is a quietly probing dissection of loss and need. A wonderfully pared screenplay from the consistently brilliant Hanif Kureishi lets the actors movements and facial expressions evoke a great deal of the emotion, giving the viewer the feeling that a lot more has been expressed through dialogue than actually has.

Director, Roger Mitchell benefits from having lesser known actors in the lead roles than we are accustomed to in his films, and this said, Anne Reid is a far more convincing romantic lead than Gwyneth Paltrow in 'Changing Lanes' or Julia Roberts in 'Notting Hill,' despite being 68 years old. It's also refreshing and heartening to see a mainstream director take on an unspoken taboo such as the sexuality of older people and treat it with such respect and sensitivity. This all adds to giving the film a distinctly European feel, something that was backed up by the plaudits it received at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. One feels this change of tone and subject matter seems to borrow something from Patrice Cheraux's take on Kureishi's last cinematic venture - 'Intimacy,' and if so, it is to be applauded.

The ensemble cast work brilliantly together. Daniel Craig turns in a multi-dimensional performance as a troubled man seeking, then rejecting redemption. Steven Mackintosh quietly steals the few scenes he is in and Cathryn Bradshaw is wildly dislikeable as the selfish, deluded daughter, dealing with and avoiding her own guilt at her father's death. But it is undoubtedly Anne Reid in the title role that gives the film its incredible warmth and power and I can only hope that this wonderfully versatile actress's career will now succumb to a similar, deserved renaissance to that experienced by her character.
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