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The Mother (2003)

Director: Roger Michele
Starring: Daniel Craig, Anne Reid, Steven Mackintosh, Cathryn Baldwin
Released by Sony Pictures

Having read the plot description for "The Mother", I was reluctant to watch the film. A film about an elderly woman who begins an affair with her daughter's lover sounds as if it might make for a somewhat disturbing experience. And I was right. "The Mother" is a very disturbing film, for a number of reasons not limited to the concept of geriatric sex.

May (Anne Reid) and Toots (Peter Vaughn) are a couple who have been together for over thirty years. May is healthy and alert, while Toots ambles along, perpetually out of breath, every movement labored. The pair take a trip to London to visit their adult children; Bobby (Steven Mackintosh), the successful and somewhat aloof son, and Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw), their more down-to-earth but excessively needy daughter. On the first night of their visit, Toots suffers a heart attack and dies. The children can't bear the idea of having to take in their newly widowed mother; she simply has no place in their lives. May senses this and returns to the home she shared with her late husband. She doesn't stay away long. Thoughts of a solitary, purposeless life consume May; she says she would rather die than to spend her remaining years as an old widow, lonely and forgotten, waiting for death in a nursing home.

May returns to London, determined to find some role in her children's lives. Paula just so happens to need a babysitter and May is more than happy to step in. May is almost invisible to her children; the old lady spends her days running errands and cleaning Paula's house, while her self-absorbed children carry on with their busy lives. The only person who treats May as a living, breathing human is Darren (Daniel Craig), a married handyman who is renovating Bobby's house. Darren is sleeping with Paula, a fact that May discovers after catching the two in the act. May becomes enamored with Darren, and begins slowly courting the much younger man. Their romance becomes physical and May begins to experience the life that she wants, one that she was never able to live previously. Bobby and Paula discover the affair, shocked and disgusted by what their mother has done. Hostility was already lurking beneath the surface of their relationship with their mother--the affair is the final straw. Paula seeks revenge against her mother, leading to a devastating climax.

"The Mother" is a well-made film. The performances by the film's leads are nearly flawless. In fact, this BBC-funded production is excellent in every way, technically speaking. It is shocking; the explicit sex scenes between Reid and Craig are hard to endure. I found myself wondering why I didn't trust my instincts and avoid watching this film, as my fears of seeing a naked old lady engaged in frequent sexual acts were confirmed. For the love of god, don't watch this movie with your grandma. However, the film does not rely on over-the-hill erotica for its power. The interaction between these characters is quite upsetting on its own, as nearly everyone in this is a butthole.  May, Paula, Bobby, Darren, all of them. These are people who simply don't care about each other, held together only by a sense of obligation to "family". They hold each other close only to inflict damage upon one another, trapped in a cycle which is not hard to imagine repeating long after the closing credits have rolled. No one in this film acts out of love or compassion, only selfishness. You keep watching out of hope that someone is going to break out of this destructive loop, but that moment never comes. You are left with nothing but images of Daniel Craig getting jiggy with an old lady.

"The Mother" is a film which is masterfully made, but is nearly impossible to pass judgment upon. The characters are neither likeable or unlikeable, the situations they find themselves in both preposterous and plausible.

Much like life itself.