A review of “The Mother” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ****

Rating: R for

Run Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

 

 

The generation gap narrows to a delicate cleft in this beautifully observed portrait of aging.

May (Anne Reid) is your typical dowdy suburban granny, cast in the traditional role of self-sacrificing caregiver.  When May and husband Toots (Peter Vaughan) travel to metropolitan London for a visit with their adult children, Toots unexpectedly passes on.

Overcome by an unfamiliar sense of worthlessness, May refuses to return home to an empty house and an eternity of lonely nights.  Son Bobby (Steven Mackintosh) and daughter Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw) feign sympathy, but are altogether too wrapped up in their chaotic lives to endure the burden of a single elderly parent.

A persevering May temporarily takes up occupancy at Bobby’s place.  As she eases into the prickly transition of unfettered freedom, May strikes up an unlikely friendship with resident builder Darren (Daniel Craig) that segues into sexual attraction. 

Their unpredictably torrid affair is fraught with fissures of complication; not the least of which is that Darren is thirty years May’s junior (shades of Harold and Maude!) and dips double-duty as Paula’s lover.

Whew.  The Mother refuses to be defined by traditional values, cutting through layer after layer of dysfunction in compact style and thrusting in-house emotions to the surface in all their incompetent glory. 

Bobby’s frantic need to get ahead lends a stain of desperation, while Paula’s doormat desire for the ambiguous Darren offers up a queasy disquiet. Underlying all is May’s glorious emotional re-awakening and her palpable fear of becoming the ubiquitous old lady.

Reid gives a gutsy performance as a woman on the verge of finding herself after decades of invisibility.  Craig flaunts his deepest fears (and fabulous abs), courtesy a complex combination of wants and needs.

An evocative, conflicted, and incomparable drama.