Another Mother's Son – movie review

by Peter Calder / 27 October, 2017
RelatedArticlesModule - Another Mother's Son

A wartime drama with all the zing of an episode of Coro Street.

The Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey were the only parts of Britain occupied by the Germans in World War II. Britons not born there were deported to Germany and thousands of prisoners, mainly Russian, imported as slave labour.

Some of the islanders sheltered escaped prisoners and the story of one, Louisa Gould, is the raw material of this reverent but rather clunky feature, based on a script by Gould’s grand-niece.

Gould (played with Julie Andrews-level sincerity by Jenny Seagrove) was a widowed shopkeeper, still reeling from the loss of her son in the Mediterranean, when, in the summer of 1942, she took in Feodor Burriy (Julian Kostov).

It gives little away to say that things did not end well, though more attention is paid here to the divisions within the community, where informers curried favour with the occupiers: the prime suspects are a couple of clucking spinster sisters who seem to have wandered in off the set of a Dickens adaptation. Thus Gould, who is supposed to have said, “I have to do something to help another mother’s son”, is the pivot in a pedestrian drama about the clash between the warring urges of self-preservation and humanity.

It’s not the newest idea, and the script has all the zing of an episode of Coronation Street. Starting out with a few hundredweight of expository dialogue, in which characters explain to each other stuff that they would already know, so we can be brought up to speed, the film settles into an episodic rhythm designed to illustrate aspects of the story (rations were short; Germans were brutal; some girls did), without ever finding a dramatic arc.

The handsome exterior scenes (it’s shot in Somerset and Cornwall) provide some relief from cabin fever for Burriy and  Gould, as well as us. It may seem odd that they keep rambling through landscape littered with checkpoints, but the movie can do with the excitement.

There are upper lips stiff enough to break a stick of Brighton rock, and the tweed and knitwear are marvellous. But this one’s too innocuous to be engaging.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★1/2

This article was first published in the October 21, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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