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  • Colin Fraser


TWO AND A HALF STARS The works of painter L.S. Lowry were loved by the British, not so much by his mother.

Vanessa Redgrave, Timothy Spall


This modest two-hander details the strained relationship between one of Britain’s most famous painters and his rather formidable mother. Starring the no less formidable talent of Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spall, it’s certain to find favour among art historians, art-house enthusiasts and those who simply enjoy watching a mother harangue her children.

For that is largely what MRS LOWRY AND SON amounts to - a lot of time spent in Lowry the elder’s bedroom (sickly and aged, she didn’t get out much) while Lowry the younger is scolded while tending her needs (food, water, emotional support). There’s little he can do that meets her high standards; certainly not his artworks. How much patience you have for the story depends largely on how much patience you have for the battle-axe: under Adrian Noble’s constrained and frustratingly repetitive direction, the vicious tongued curmudgeon was not one to warm to. Which leaves you wondering why her son cared so much for her opinion of his work. And by extension, why we should care about her either. Or him for that matter.

By this stage in his life, L.S Lowry was beginning to gain some traction for a stylistically unique body of work that depicted the rather grim reality of life in the industrial north. The only time his snobbish mother agreed was when a posh neighbour took a shine to a painting that had been a present for Lowry’s mother - now found neglected in the hallway. What had been an embarrassment turned suddenly into a thing of merit. You get the picture.

Although LOWRY AND SON has a number of intriguing scenes and is anchored by two terrific performances (they’re worth the price of admission), TV writer Martyn Hesford’s script never really takes off, it certainly doesn’t escape the confines of Mrs Lowry’s bedroom. While that clawing sense of claustrophobia works for a while, it eventually overwhelms the film, suffocating characters and audience alike. Consequently we never fully understand why L.S. put up with his mother’s awful histrionics. Something greater than duty or misplaced love was at play, but neither Hesford or Noble are able to put their finger on it.

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