When you see the name Redgrave next to Spall, you know the performances are going to worthy of applauding. Adrian Noble’s take on the British artist L.S. Lowry is led by two powerhouses that capture you from the get go. Sentiment and spirit team together to unravel this slow-burner with utter ease.
Mrs Lowry and Son takes on the story of an artist and his mother. Not the most thrilling of subjects, albeit the sheer emotion seeping through every line, every criticism this poor man receives is anything other than laborious to watch. This is undoubtedly an elongated tale; but one with depth and complexity. We see Lowry (Timothy Spall) as a quirky, happy in his own way chap playing games with street children, matched with an equally uplifting soundtrack reflecting the kind and caring nature of this grown man. He is man who paints what he sees, ‘nothing more, nothing less’ and the one person he desperately seeks approval from, the one person he paints for never offers any positive reinforcement.
In fact, his mother (Vanessa Redgrave) does the completely opposite – teetering on the edge of emotional, verbal abuse, beating her son down at every turn constantly deflecting and making every little thing about her downfall and how she ended up living with the working class instead of where she truly belonged. Virtually the entire film takes place in his mother’s bedroom creating a rather claustrophobic atmosphere, thus in turn making us empathise with this poor struggling artist even more. The confined space this man has even when it comes to expressing himself through painting is quite simply depressing too. Although it’s not all doom and gloom with moments of simple happiness that trickle through the cracks and provide welcome breaks in between the sadness.
Through internal narration of himself and his mother we are taken on a journey that will make you laugh, gasp and possibly cry. Yes, there is much left unexplored, although the phrase ‘less is more’ perfectly describes the pace of this narrative. The power struggle undertones are somewhat fitting of this country’s political state and the story of the underdog is always a clear winner. The glint in Lowry’s eyes as he receives a letter asking him to come to London to share his artwork at a gallery is truly heart-warming. To see this middle aged man reluctant and out right scared to share this incredible news to his bed-ridden mother he takes care of everyday is in turn heart-breaking. He has finally got his work recognised and the most important person in his life simply doesn’t care.
Above all else, Mrs Lowry & Son is a quality drama – nothing more, nothing less. If you are looking for the next Fast and the Furious and I think there might actually be yet another one out, this isn’t the film for you. An acquired taste to some, albeit an ideal example of how keeping it simple can be so rewarding to both the filmmakers and the audience.
Released 30th August in selected theatres.