Perhaps the scariest day of your life is the day you wake up and you realize that you’re old. It isn’t the old part that is scary; what is scary is the realization that perhaps, you haven’t lived your life at all. You haven’t done the things you wanted or you just simply passed up opportunities to do the things that you wanted. At that point it would obviously be too late to try many of those things and you’re left to live the rest of your life in regret Now at this point, you’re plagued with a sense of regret for the rest of your life. Or perhaps that day when you wake up, your spouse of several years has been taken from you. Now you have the choice to live out your desires you just abandoned before. You lived a good part of your life dedicated to this person but now you are on your own, and you’re scared. What should you do now? The title character in Roger Michell’s fantastic new film has this exact question to answer.
May (Anne Reid) and her husband Toots (Peter Vaughan) have been married for over thirty years. In that time, they had two children who are now on their own, grown up and living in London. The couple decides to make a visit to see their children and when they arrive, they discover how busy the lives of their children (and grandchildren) truly are. They stay with their son Bobby and his wife who have kids of their own whom are too preoccupied with music and television to really pay any attention to their parents, let alone their grandparents. Their daughter Paula is a struggling single parent that also lives in London with her son. She strives hard at raising her son, keeping up with a creative writing career, and keeping a relationship with a married man. That night, the entire family has dinner over Paula’s and share one last intimate meal together. May loses Toots to a heart attack and becomes alone for the first time in her life.
Instead of going back to her empty home, May stays in London with Paula. The married man that Paula is desperately trying work a relationship with is Darren (Daniel Craig), who also happens to be a carpenter that is building an observatory in Bobby’s house. May then gets convinced by Paula to become friendly with Darren, in the purpose to find out his true intentions with the relationship. This friendliness between Darren and May, however, soon spirals into a sexually charged relationship. Things then get problematical with Paula when she learns that Darren is becoming involved with her mother, but also that May is twice his age.
Before you deduce that this goes into the average Lifetime Original Movie territory starring Brian Dennehy, Hanif Kureishi’s script and Anne Reid’s portrayal of May controls the melodrama from ever happening. “The Mother” contains something very refreshing about sex, age, family and relationships, despite the day-time television set-up. The film refrains from focusing on the shock of her losing her husband or the mourning process, but rather accentuates May’s regret for not living her life the way she intended. It is refreshing to find a movie that tackles the subject straight forward with both honesty and appeal, instead of numbing the audience with plot clichés used over and over again and overwrought sappiness. Her whole life was dedicated to her husband, and during that time, she simply ignored her interests for the sake of pleasing him. Through her relationship with Darren, she wakes up to her interests and her sexuality. Soon enough though, this bizarre love triangle gets even more complicated as the family soon discovers what’s happening.
Overall, this is a very solid little film that would be perfect to those of you who are beyond tired of this summer’s attack of mindless entertainment. In the midst of this blockbuster season full of computer generated set pieces and comic book characters, it is comforting to know that there are some filmmakers bold enough to release films that have thoughtful scripts, brilliant acting (most notably Anne Reid) and focused direction.