Mrs Lowry and Son - Review
by Liam Martin
Director Adrian Noble’s biographical portrait of the painter, L. S. Lowry (Timothy Spall) and his difficult relationship with his mother (Vanessa Redgrave) is a dramatic and unique experience that will keep the audience member engaged despite the serious nature of the film.
The setting takes place mostly in the bedroom of Lowry’s mother alongside the former factories, cobbled streets and tenement buildings of 1934 Pendlebury, Lancashire. Here Lowry’s activities include working as a rent collector during the day and painting the industrial scenery around him at night as well as taking care of his bedridden mother. Lowry’s tedious activities are compounded by his struggle for notoriety and constant criticism from his mother.
Noble manages to combine elements of surrealism with the mundane by literally demonstrating Lowry’s creative thought process as he interacts with the residents and environment around him. Furthermore, the use of close-up shots and low lighting within Mrs Lowry’s bedroom emphasizes the sense of claustrophobia and tension within the house. This contrasts with the panoramic views outside, which illustrate Lowry’s desire to escape from his mother’s domineering influence. Here Vanessa Redgrave channels the misery and indignation Mrs Lowry feels about her social status by imposing an intimidating and snobbish personality. At the same time, Timothy Spall manages to capture Lowry’s reserved and eccentric nature as he battles to remain positive throughout the film. His method acting is most noticeable in his character’s facial expressions.
It is clear that the relationship dynamic between these characters is one of dominance and submission. During flashbacks, however, we are shown how Lowry’s childhood was more affluent and marked by a more loving and carefree relationship with his mother. Yet this was undermined by the failure of the husband to provide for the family, which enables some form of sympathy for Mrs Lowry. Additionally, Craig Armstrong’s use of orchestral music and piano chords capture the childlike innocence of Lowry.
Ultimately, Mrs Lowry and Son is an underrated gem that psychologically explores the creativity of L. S. Lowry and how the relationship with his cantankerous mother shaped his personality. One at first might think that a biographical drama film about a Northern English painter and his mother would seem like a dull snooze fest. However, upon closer inspection the amount of tension and raw detail displayed is enough to keep the audience member gripped from the beginning to the end.