Mrs Lowry & Son

Mrs Lowry and her signature Cheshire Cat smile
Verdict: 
7/10 - Top-notch performances from Timothy Spall and Vanessa Redgrave lift this otherwise tense biographical drama
Release Date: 
Friday, August 30, 2019
Written by: 

Mrs Lowry & Son offers a portrait of the British artist L.S. Lowry and the difficult relationship he had with his mother.

7

Back in 2014, Timothy Spall won critical acclaim for his performance as J.M.W. Turner in biographical film Mr. Turner.

And it seems that the 62-year-old actor has an interest in portraying eminent British artists, as he now takes on the part of painter L. S. Lowry in Adrian Noble's Mrs Lowry & Son.

Known for his industrial scenes of North West England in the mid-20th century, as well as brooding portraits and "matchstick men" figures, Lowry's paintings now sell for millions of pounds.

However, Noble's film doesn't focus on his success or career, but instead delves into a point of time when Lowry is living with his ailing mother Elizabeth, as played by Vanessa Redgrave.

Working as a rent collector, Lowry spends his days walking the streets of Salford, where he quietly observes the people around him, taking particular note of the behaviour of his neighbours and the local factory workers.

Having studied art at night school, the lifelong bachelor spends his evenings at the canvas, recalling snapshots of his day in his imagery, yet, the rest of his life revolves around the bedridden yet controlling Elizabeth.

The elderly woman is embarrassed by her only child's artistic ambitions, and never misses an opportunity to try and dissuade him from painting, expressing her disapproval of his subject matter and technique.

She also lacks any maternal instincts and is deeply bitter as a result of the inability of Lowry's father to lift or maintain her social status.

 

Somehow, Lowry remains entirely loyal to his only family member, and Spall does a great job at conveying just how much he desires his parent to show any sort of love, desperately making her dinner each night or painting seaside scenes for her wall.

Redgrave, 82, turns in a virtuoso performance as the domineering Elizabeth, nailing the sharp tongue and pointed delivery required of the role.

She also allows the character to show vulnerability at times, and a moment in which she requests for her son to comb her hair is particularly touching.

Noble briefly introduces other figures, including unhappy neighbours Mr. and Mrs. Stanhope (Stephen Lord and Wendy Morgan), but this film never veers far from the Lowry home, which adds to the overwhelmingly tense atmosphere.

At times, the plot feels a bit repetitive, with Lowry's daily tasks bordering on the monotonous, though this is broken up by some rather cute instances of him kindly interacting with the children who get a kick out of following him around.

Certainly, Mrs Lowry & Son's story isn't exactly packed with thrills, but the quality of the acting and the 91-minute runtime offers an intriguing portrait.

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