The Mother (7/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

There is no word in the English language for a female equivalent to cuckold (who is a man whose wife is sleeping with someone else). This is about a Mother who sleeps with her daughter’s boy friend. While this might not technically be the female equivalent of a cuckold, since the man is not married to the daughter, it’s close enough.

May (Anne Reid) goes on a trip to London with her husband, Toots (Peter Vaughan), where he promptly dies. This leaves May forlorn, in the midst of her two children, son Bobby (Steven Mackintosh), and daughter, Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw), a single mom in love with Bobby’s carpenter, Darren (Daniel Craig). To make matters worse, Bobby’s wife, Helen (Anna Wilson Jones), and their children don’t want May around.

Bobby himself is so absorbed in his business problems that he doesn’t really have much interest in May’s predicament, either. So May goes to live with Paula, who confides in May that she is in love with Darren. Paula trustingly asks her mother to talk to Darren to try to discern his true feelings, given that he’s married and has an autistic son and all.

With that setup, May agrees…then proceeds to seduce Darren.

This is a story of terminally selfish people. While the purpose of Director Roger Michell (Changing Lanes, 2002, and Notting Hill, 1999) and writer Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, 1985) was apparently to show that women over 60 still have strong sexual feelings, May’s sexuality is overshadowed by her shallow selfishness.

However, Michell went out of his way to show how much May enjoys sex. There are graphic scenes of fornication, which I found offensive. I see no reason to show a man having sex with a woman from behind, with graphic images of his thrusts. As Evelyn Waugh said about the sexual act in a letter to Nancy Mitford, "(T)he pleasure (is) momentary, the posture ridiculous, the expense damnable.” We shouldn’t be subjected to such scenes that are neither titillating nor necessary. If Michell wanted to show how much pleasure May received from the sexual act, it would have sufficed to show her face and listened to her moans of pleasure without making it a two shot and including Darren. As I was squirming while watching this disgusting scene I was reminded of a scene of the great French actress, Jeanne Moreau. Someone was making love to her, although we don’t see him, and she expresses her ecstasy with her eyes, making the point far more memorably than Michell does here with May and Darren. Moreau conveyed the idea through great acting and sensitive directing, while the shot of May and Darren looked to me like two dogs rutting in the alley.

The film also contains drawings of May performing oral sex on Darren. While these drawings are important to the plot, the point could have been made without such graphic depictions of fellatio.

Anne Reid does such a good job of acting that you want to be sympathetic to her. But she’s so self-centered and inconsiderate of her daughter’s feelings that, in the end, it’s just not possible. In fact, it’s hard to believe that a mother could be so insensitively wanton with her daughter’s beloved. This is a troubling film, about a half hour too long at 111 minutes, but it’s one that makes you think and ponder.

April 8, 2004

The End