Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Timothy Spall, Stephen Lord
Director: Adrian Noble
Running Time: 91 mins
Mrs. Lowry & Son is a British film about the relationship between celebrated painter L.S. Lowry and his ailing mother, as he finds himself in a dilemma between family loyalty and his passion for art.
As a very small-scale, intimate film about the psyche of a now-acclaimed artist, and the mother-son relationship that formed a signficant part of his life, I have to say that I was really rather surprised by just how touching Mrs. Lowry & Son was. It’s not quite the spectacularly powerful drama it often wants to be, and runs at a slow pace that may prove too much for some, but beneath the surface, there’s some really interesting character development and thought-provoking moral quandaries, all brought to life through some very good dialogue.
So, I won’t say that Mrs Lowry & Son is the most moving or most exhilarating drama put to screen in recent years, but as far as very personal takes on historical figures go, it is one of the most impressive. Refraining (mostly) from melodrama throughout, as well as featuring a screenplay with engaging, realistic and clear dialogue, the film really held my attention well, and even hit on some rather strong emotional beats at times.
This isn’t a meandering, pretentious portrait of an individual (like the visually impressive but painfully dull Mr. Turner), but instead a rather short and sharp personal drama about a complex but riveting mother-son relationship.
In that, if you’re looking for a history lesson about the life of L.S. Lowry, you might be a little disappointed with this film, but the story it tells still holds real value for coming to understand the man himself. Timothy Spall gives a very strong performance as the artist, combining his inimitable likability with a well-played portrayal of Lowry’s weaker-willed personality in the face of his mother, played fantastically by Vanessa Redgrave.
The characters’ relationship – simple though it may be, played out through bedside conversations – is complex, deep and multi-dimensional. In that, the film opens up a riveting and often thought-provoking look at the dilemma between familial loyalty and one’s individual trajectory, with Lowry teetering on the edge of going his own way, only to be drawn back to caring for his increasingly vexatious mother.
In that, rather than simply being a piece of film that praises the painter endlessly for his works and talent – although there is some good time for that as well – the story looks at a complex and difficult moment in his life that, as frustrating and difficult as it may be for some watching, was instrumental in his becoming the painter that still receives acclaim to this day.
So, that down-to-earth, level-headed portrayal of a more personal side to history is what really makes this film work, with the story never going overboard with high emotional drama, instead sticking to an emotionally genuine portrayal of a kind-hearted and loyal man who, despite his difficult situation, did all that he thought was right.
Overall, then, I was really quite impressed by Mrs. Lowry & Son. A simple, quiet affair on the face of things, it’s actually a thoroughly engrossing movie that features riveting emotion, down-to-earth drama, and intriguing and often thought-provoking moral dilemmas. It’s slow and very dialogue-heavy, and so may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but with two fantastic performances and a well-written screenplay, I was entirely engrossed by this film, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.