The majority of films that linger over the horrors of the Second World War tend to focus on the soldiers, the young men who left home to serve their country, and risk their lives on a daily basis. It’s somewhat more infrequent to delve into the lives of those back at home, struggling to get by, constantly afraid their loved ones will be killed, while also vying to survive back on home soil. It’s here Christopher Menaul’s profound drama Another Mother’s Son is set, based on the true story of Louisa Gould.
Set on the Nazi-occupied island of Jersey, Gould (Jenny Seagrove) runs the local grocery store, selling rationed food to her neighbours. It’s those very customers that she puts her faith in, as she agrees to secretly take in a Russian prisoner of war, who she affectionately nicknames Bill (Julian Kostov), right under the nose of the Nazis patrolling the streets. With close friends and family, such as Arthur (John Hannah), Ivy (Amanda Abbington) and Harold (Ronan Keating) all in on the endeavour, they must do all they can to keep it secret, because if the opposition get wind of Bill’s whereabouts, it won’t just be the Russian they send for torture.
Another Mother’s Son captures that admirable pragmatism held by those back home, and shows how difficult many of the wives and mothers had it (albeit Jersey being a rather unique case given it was under Nazi occupation). We really do embody the role of Gould too, and form an emotional connection with the character. It helps that we even see from her perspective to a point where the Nazis are not subtitled, nor is Bill, and when they speak to her in their native tongues, she, like us, doesn’t understand, which heightens the vulnerability of the role, and increases the fear that derives from the unknown.
The performances are generally impressive, with Keating doing well in his first dramatic role (despite the somewhat difficult to place accent) – while Kostov, who bears an uncanny resemblance to a young De Niro in this film – has a brooding, internalised quality about him. Similarly to Suite Francaise, there’s a suspense prevalent throughout this piece, simply coming off the back of the fact the protagonists are constantly looking over their shoulder, worried one small mistake could cost them their lives. But also like Suite Francaise, this picture is undoubtedly a flawed one that struggles to compel in quite the way that it should.
Another Mother’s Son is released on March 24th