Another Mother's Son
Well-intentioned but tame and agitating drama, starring Jenny Seagrove and John Hannah
Films about individuals courageously standing up for what is right and decent are always welcome. In the current social and political climate one wants to cheer this real-life story of a good, brave woman's defiant challenge to a fascist regime. If only the end result was as strong as its basic story and intent.
Jenny Seagrove stars as Louisa Gould, a widowed Jersey shopkeeper with two sons away fighting in the war while the Channel Islands are occupied by the Germans. Louisa is a kind, plucky woman who, having seen the bestial cruelty inflicted on the Soviet prisoners of war doing slave labour for the Nazis, without hesitation takes in frantic and emaciated young Russian escapee Feodor (well played by Bulgarian actor Julian Kostov) when he comes to her door, dubbing him Bill.
So far, so good. But the film becomes increasingly agitating. Louisa's optimistic belief in her community's goodness makes her heedless about introducing him around. She doesn't just involve her sister and brother-in-law (Amanda Abbington and John Hannah), her brother (singer Ronan Keating) and more in his care, but lets all the neighbours see what they are up to. Worse, her determination that 'Bill' should be hidden in plain sight sees her goading her reluctant ward into gadding about town with his atrocious English. These incidents may be true to life but seem motivated by the dramatic urge to create nerve-wracking encounters with glowering Nazi patrols, entirely unnecessary if Bill had stayed home with a good book. It is inevitable that betrayal, tragedy and plenty of tears will follow.
The look and atmosphere of 1940s wartime Jersey is nicely conjured and the cast of mainly TV faces give it their best. Director Christopher Menaul (a 40-year, BAFTA-winning veteran of TV drama, including the original Prime Suspect and HBO wartime drama Fatherland) does solid, well-paced work. But the screenplay (by Jenny Lecoat, Louisa's great niece), while providing both light-hearted moments and grim reality, doesn't acknowledge that even the truth won't necessarily seem believable. And, taken as a whole, the film feels very much like a tame television drama rather than an uplifting cinematic experience.
General release from Fri 24 Mar.