The Mother
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
the mother Filmmaker Roger Michell is clearly trying to get away from the monster Hollywood production values of his last two films (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes) with this artful, intimate and extremely moving drama. It opens as May and Toots (Reid and Vaughn) travel to London to visit their two adult children. Bobby (Mackintosh) and his wife Helen (Jones) live with their two kids in a gorgeous Notting Hill home where Bobby's best friend Darren (Craig) is building an add-on conservatory. Meanwhile, daughter Paula (Bradshaw) is a free-spirited single mother who's in love--or maybe just lust--with Darren. When Toots dies suddenly, May is set adrift, trying to rediscover who she is. After moving in with Paula, May becomes involved with the much-younger Darren as well, even after Paula sets her up with a man (Davies) her own age.

The simplicity of the story and the austere production style leaves everything in the hands of the performers, and Reid is especially amazing, taking us way beneath May's skin without any obvious cinematic stuff about grief and sexuality. Her scenes with the excellent Craig are stunningly natural and believable. The subtle, authentic performances combine to paint a fascinating portrait of family interaction. Meanwhile, Michell directs with a slightly aloof eye, shyly lingering on neutral images or losing focus when things get too personal. These are much more than just visual flourishes; they give us insight into characters and situations, highlighting the fragile interplay between parents, children, siblings, friends and lovers. The organic rhythms of life are here--an unpredictable mix of chaos and tranquillity punctuated by every kind of emotion. Each person's extenuating circumstances are touched upon; we can understand how they get into this messy situation--for all their beautiful surfaces, people are confused, lonely, lost. And while the film is weakened by an overwrought, melodramatic climax, it's still a beautifully observed slice of life that teaches us about ourselves without ever being preachy.

cert 15 themes, language, sex, drugs 20.Aug.03

dir Roger Michell
scr Hanif Kureishi
with Anne Reid, Daniel Craig, Cathryn Bradshaw, Steven Mackintosh, Oliver Ford Davies, Anna Wilson Jones, Peter Vaughan, Danira Govich, Harry Michell, Rosie Michell, Carlo Kureishi, Sachin Kureishi
release UK 14.Nov.03; US 28.May.04
03/UK 1h51

Reflections: Reid and Craig.

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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall