March 31, 2019
The Mother (2003)
Grade: 75/100

Director: Roger Michell
Stars: Anne Reid, Daniel Craig, Cathryn Bradshaw

What it's about. A family drama and romance. May (Anne Reid) and Toots (Peter Vaughan) are an elderly married couple visiting their grown children in London. Bobby (Steven Mackintosh) is an ostensibly successful but spendthrift man with a wife and two kids. Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw) is a writing instructor.

Bobby lives in a posh house, and has hired his best friend Darren (Daniel Craig) to build a sun room extension. Paula lives separately, and is in a relationship with Darren. Toots dies, and the grieving May moves in with Paula. May, who looks several years younger than her age, befriends Darren and unexpectedly begins an affair with him. An amateur sketch artist, May makes pornographic drawings of herself and Darren, and they are discovered by her children. Paula plots revenge.

How others will see it. The Mother is best known today as a pre-James Bond role for Daniel Craig. At the time, it was seen as a romantic follow-up for director Roger Michell's most commercially successful movie, Notting Hill. The Mother fared poorly at the box office, despite good press on the festival circuit. The movie picked up a prestigious Best Actress nomination from BAFTA, and nods also came from Cannes and the European Film Awards.

Alas, these failed to inspire much interest from potential viewers. Today at, the movie has less than 4K user votes, an average of less than one vote per day since its release. The user ratings are slightly underwhelming, 6.8 out of 10, though they eke a rise to 7.1 among women over 45. The user reviews are generally positive.

How I felt about it. I found this movie hard to watch, but then again, many movies are difficult for me to get through. The big taboo here, obviously, is the graphically depicted sexual relationship between May and Darren, despite an age gap of more than 30 years. The question immediately arises, is this relationship presented in a convincing way?

In short, no. I can understand why May would lust after Darren, and I can accept Darren as an ultimately selfish free spirit. But I can't see him having a sexual interest in May. He might flirt with idly as an amusement, or to enjoy her cooking, but he would, nonetheless, not be interested.

But assuming they had an affair, why would May be so stupid as to commemorate in a sketch book that she keeps lying about for anyone, including Bobby's children, to peruse. I don't think it is credible that Paula would announce to May that she wants to punch her, and then actually do so while May waits undefended for the blow.

Darren also has a last minute character turn, from a charming, sensitive, and romantic loser into the classic violent money-grubbing horndog jerk. Ah, men.

So, the movie falls apart in its final reel, though there are revelatory scenes, such as May's unpleasant sexual encounter with her elderly admirer Bruce (Oliver Ford Davies). The moral is a familiar one, that eventually the most civilized people drop their veneers to reveal how ugly they really are inside. But in the novel "Lord of the Flies", Ralph and Piggy try to retain their humanity even as the other boys descend into pack animals. Where are Ralph and Piggy here?

Naturally, our lead May comes off as the most sympathetic, with the hapless Bobby in second place. Ultimately, neither Darren or Paula come off well at all.