★★★★ - STUFF
- A very-nearly two-hander, set mostly in a couple of shabby rooms, on the nettlesome relationship between a grown man and his vexatious mother, adapted from a play.
It really doesn't sound like the stuff of laugh-out-loud comedy and an authentically moving examination of mortality and chance does it?
And yet, Mrs Lowry and Son is all that, and more.
Between 1934 and 1939, L S (Laurence) Lowry was not yet famous. Although he was already a prolific painter, Lowry was just at the very beginning of the trajectory that would eventually lead him to become one of the most celebrated and popular British artists of the 20th century.
Lowry's mum, by all accounts, was a brooding and difficult figure, who couldn't or refused to see her son's talent and who constantly referred to her disappointment that he was such a humble and ineffectual man. Lowry painted at night, in the attic of their rented house. During the day, he worked as a rent collector around the benighted streets of Salford, in Greater Manchester.
And, if all of that sounds a little grim, don't be fooled. On the screen, Mrs Lowry and Son, much like one of Lowry's own paintings, is a wee gem on a small canvas, full of loving details within its apparently simple and unadorned style.
Director Adrian Noble – who was once artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company – has a peach of a script to work with here. In the hands and mouths of Timothy Spall (Mr Turner) and Vanessa Redgrave (pretty much every film ever made in Britain), the words just about detonate the air around them.
The barbs are sharp and protestations of affection – from the Mrs at least – are non-existent. But you would have to be tone-deaf (or an American film critic, apparently) to not hear the absolute adoration and need flowing back and forth between the mother and the son.
Spall and Redgrave excavate every iota of meaning from the pages and get it shimmering up on the screen. In lesser hands, maybe Mrs Lowry and Son could have been a mite depressing, or even worse, "worthy".
There's no danger of that here. In its best moments, this film crackles.
- Graeme Tuckett, STUFF
Mrs Lowry and Son is now playing at Light House Petone!