Film & TV

Film Review: Mrs Lowry & Son

Timothy Spall and Vanessa Redgrave star in this intimate portrait of beloved painter A. S. Lowry and his mother.

Any new film starring Timothy Spall is always a treat. When it’s essentially a two-hander with Vanessa Redgrave, you know it is going to be something extraordinary.

Beloved British painter A. S. Lowry only found recognition in his 50s. He lived with his mother Elizabeth, in a modest home in Manchester, until the day she died. He never, to anyone’s knowledge, had a lover or any other close person in his life, other than a handful of good friends.

Mrs Lowry & Son looks at a small period of time in the 30s, only a few years before Elizabeth’s death. Lowry is working as a rent-collector, looking after his difficult, invalid mother, and spending his evenings in the attic, painting. The heart of this work is the toxic, but oddly loving, relationship between mother and son. Although she constantly undermines him and regards him as a failure, there is often affectionate banter between them, redolent of an Alan Bennett script.

Screenplay by Martyn Hesford is based on his very successful play, which was in turn based on his original radio play. Interestingly, the film is directed by Adrian Noble, one of Britain’s most lauded theatre directors. The sense of the stage is therefore never far from this work. Most of the action takes place in Elizabeth’s bedroom and is just the two characters. However, the cinematic genre has not gone to waste, with Noble shooting some beautiful sequences blending scenes of Manchurian industrial life, with the Lowry paintings they inspired.

Spall and Redgrave relish the rich script they’ve been given, bringing to life an era, a relationship, and two emotionally unfulfilled lives. There is an intimacy to the work that is almost brutal, but which drives the narrative tension.

This is a chance to see two of Britain’s gold-standard actors delivering a tight and lyrical script, under the gentle guiding hand of an intelligent director.

Mrs Lowry & Son is currently screening.

INTENSE 4 stars

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