The Mother

dir. Michell
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Independent film proves its worth in works like The Mother. Director Roger Michell takes risks that challenge the audience, addressing mortality, elderly sex, and the passage of time with a naked eye--themes that mainstream cinema usually sanitizes with heavy doses of oversimplified poetic spin. To its immense credit, The Mother handles these cultural taboos with visionary honesty, neither painting too rosy or too revolutionary a picture. The film simply presents a complicated, believable cultural scenario--and allows it to speak for itself.

May (Anne Reid) is a recently widowed, 65-year-old woman thrust into the exhausting suburban lives of her children, who are too busy struggling with the frustrations of their own lives to pay any attention to their mother. Lamenting the time she spent wasting away in bleak marital servitude, May advances into a dizzying, lusty affair with her daughter's boyfriend (Daniel Craig). A brief period of unrestrained sexual bliss proceeds, until her daughter discovers what's happening and grudgingly attempts to stuff May back into the comfortable, harmless role of "the mother," setting her up with a geriatric lameoid and urging her to move back to the country. The sensitive geography of culturally sanctioned perceptions of age and gender is disrupted as May stubbornly pursues her own affirmation, fed up with the limitations of life as a diminutive matron.

But May is not the cheeky, glamorous granny who might appear as a character in Sex In The City, some aging sexual revolutionary who makes the most of her newfound liberation by unabashedly shagging the poolboy. May is altogether human in her complexity, both insecure in the face of her own mortality and joyfully reawakened to the joys of her sexual body. Partly thanks to the vague, low-contrast lighting and muted colors, The Mother seamlessly weaves the gravity of these themes into the quotidian passage of the everyday; harrowing scenes of elderly sex and bitter family violence quietly blend into the droning logic of suburbia. The mise-en-scene charms the eye with a stellar use of line that constantly reminds us of the steady passage of time and the inevitability of death that prompt May's revelatory awakening. The Mother is loyal to both the burden and lightness of living, and its risque plot pays off.