Film review - Mrs Lowry & Son
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 August 2019
Where else would you stage the gala premiere of a film devoted to Salford's most famous son, than the arts centre dedicated to his name?
The red carpet treatment was rolled out for this special screening for Mrs Lowry & Son, a few days ahead of its general cinema release, with the film's stars - Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spall - in the audience, and taking part in a stage interview afterwards.
The film is set in the 1930s, at a time when Lowry is on the verge of recognition for his unique paintings but remains inescapably tied to the needs of his bedridden and demanding mother. It is a very theatrical two-hander, based on Salford writer and actor Martyn Hesford's radio play, and set largely in the Pendlebury bedroom where Elizabeth Lowry saw out her final years.
Director Adrian Noble indulges occasional location filming to re-create moments and images that might have inspired the painter. The woman crouched low over a tiny pram; the blackened miner in his tin bath; and the street urchins who joined in Lowry's playful games. The film has been shot entirely on location in Lancashire, and the beach at Lytham St Annes has seldom looked so expressive as in the scenes in which Lowry and mother recall earlier untroubled memories.
But it is back home, in Station Road, Pendlebury, where this film remains acutely focussed, and the scene of a battle royal between two titans of screen acting. At times it feels like an unfair fight between the needy, calculating mother, a merciless critic of her son's artwork, and the awkward, yet steadfast son who remains convinced that the 'feelings' he paints are an honest reflection of talent.
"You find things beautiful that no-one else does!" she scolds.
If the film turns on the unlikely intervention of a neighbour, and the even more unlikely angry reaction it provokes in Lowry himself, then it can be excused dramatic licence. As a masterclass in acting technique it cannot be faulted and is surely destined for award nominations.
As a study of a man who unearthed bleak beauty all around him it also lends renewed significance to his work.
Mrs Lowry & Son is in cinemas from the 30th August