The Mother

I was lucky to catch The Mother at a film festival in 2003 without knowing much about it ahead of time. Now that it's been released in the US, most reviews are already giving away plot twists that aren't revealed in the story until about halfway through the film, which is mean. So I'll leave the synopsis at this: A sixtysomething woman (Anne Reid) visits her grown children in London with her husband, only to have him die midway through the visit. Left a widow, she has no one to turn to but her family - a son and daughter with terrifically nasty, self-centered attitudes. Her slow death from boredom and loneliness is forestalled when she starts taking an interest in the youngish carpenter (Daniel Craig) working on her son's house, even though she knows the carpenter is already involved with her own daughter.

What seems to be your typical story of an aged wallflower blooming is taken much further thanks to a blistering, no-holds-barred script by renowned writer Hanif Kureishi, so that The Mother is as much an indictment of the loveless modern Western family as it is a tale of sexual reawakening. Roger Michell directs with artistry and clarity, matching Reid's incredible portrayal of a person newly discovering both her own beauty and the profound ugliness of her own children. It's a brutal world view, but Michell and Reid balance it out with focused restraint.

My only problem came near the end, where a sudden revelation of one character's drug problem is, in context of the film's stark realism, absurdly forced. But it's not enough to derail my appreciation of the work itself. The Mother may be bleak, but it's vibrant proof that intelligent, mature cinema is far from dead.