Essentially a two-hander, this film is a terrific, slow-burning showcase for the acting skills of Redgrave and Spall. Their scenes together abound with tension and barely repressed anger, as Laurie finds his attempts to evolve stymied by his almost maniacal mum. Spall is particularly impressive, whether with brush in hand, or using the canvas of his face to portray the flickers of his artist’s pent up emotions.
A dream team of British acting talent.
With quieter work from Spall and a simplicity of direction that works in its favour, Adrian Noble’s film is a sweet and funny tale about enjoying what you have, not resenting what you don’t.
Beloved British artist L.S. Lowry lived all his life with his over-bearing mother Elizabeth. Bed-ridden and bitter, Elizabeth actively tried to dissuade her bachelor son from pursuing his artistic ambitions, whilst never failing to voice her opinion at what a disappointment he was to her.
Focusing on the mid-1930s, the period just before Lowry was discovered, theatre director Adrian Noble’s film looks at the relationship between the then Pendlebury rent collector and his bed-ridden, domineering mother Elisabeth. Struggling to pay off debts his father left behind, ‘Laurie’ also bears the brunt of his mum’s fragile physical and emotional state. Seemingly taking delight in reading aloud a scathing review of one of his works in the local paper, she also casts doubt on the authenticity of a letter from London proposing an exhibition of his works. “Why can’t you paint something picturesque, tasteful? What about a bowl of fruit?”, Elizabeth chides.
Timothy Spall was absolutely wonderful. And Vanessa was truly mean. Personally, I was not so aware of the artist and this opened myself up to him. Not a lot of locations to work with, most was filmed in her bedroom.
UK 2019, 91 min, rated PG (nudity)
Directed by Adrian Noble
Starring Vanessa Redgrave, Timothy Spall, Stephen Lord, David Schaal, Wendy Morgan, Michael Keogh, John Alan Roberts & Joanne Pearce