6.6/10 (228 votes)
50% (20 reviews)


Mrs Lowry & Son Movie Details

Directed by Adrian Noble
Produced by
  • Debbie Gray
Screenplay by Martyn Hesford
  • Vanessa Redgrave
  • Timothy Spall
Music by Craig Armstrong
Cinematography Josep M. Civit
Edited by Chris Gill
Production company
Genesius Pictures
Distributed by
  • Vertigo Films (United Kingdom)
Release date
  • June 30, 2019 (Edinburgh)
  • August 30, 2019 (United Kingdom)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $1.5 million

Back when I first got my Cineworld Unlimited Card I immediately began keeping a record of the films I went to see, eventually ending the year with a top 10 and bottom 10 rankings. Unfortunately for Tim Spall, I rated ‘Mr Turner’ as the worst film I’d seen that year. Would his second crack at portraying a famous English painter be any better? Yes…but not by much.

Artist L.S. Lowry (Timothy Spall) lived a simple life, staying at home to care for his bedridden mother Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave). He made his living as a tax collector, but it was his passion for painting which gave him purpose. ‘Mrs Lowry & Son’ focuses on the close, but complicated, the relationship between Lowry and his mother prior to his achieving fame.

Starting with the positive, the performances of Spall and Redgrave were nothing short of excellent. 100% believable, these two consummate professionals clearly put a lot of work into becoming their characters. As co-leads their performances are arguably worthy of BAFTA nominations. The reason this won’t be troubling any of the major awards shows, however, is that pretty much every other aspect of the film was disappointing.

It’s been said that only a lazy reviewer refers to a film as boring, but that’s the most appropriate word to describe this movie. Less than half an hour in and I could already easily have fallen asleep. Were it not for the fear that I might embarrass myself by snoring, I think I probably would have. Very little was actually happening apart from Lowry and his mother talking about nothing of much interest. Also, the vast majority of the film is confined to a single location – Elizabeth Lowry’s bedroom. I kept thinking that this story would surely have been better suited to the stage as a play. It wasn’t until returning home and listening to Mark Kermode’s review that I discovered this story already was a play, which has now been adapted into a film. Felt quite pleased with me for making the same observation.

When I discovered this history my first thought went to the Best Picture nominated ‘Fences’; the Denzel Washington film, for which he earned an Oscar nomination; and Viola Davis won Best Supporting Actress. That was also a stage play adapted into a film with two incredible performances from people mostly just in one location talking. A very similar structure, yet I loved ‘Fences’. The difference for me between ‘Mrs Lowry & Son’ and ‘Fences’ is in the writing and direction. Where Fences succeeded for me was by telling a story that was dramatic, in a way that was genuinely gripping. At times I think ‘Mrs Lowry & Son’ tries to be dramatic, but in my opinion, it comes across more as melodramatic.

Both of the co-leads have moments where they get angry at various situations, but personally I feel like both of them massively overreacted to those situations. These overreactions (coupled with the pithy score) just left me shaking my head in disappointment. I kept thinking about poor Spall and Redgrave wasting their talents on such a poor movie.

What made things worse was that I found both characters to be incredibly frustrating. Elizabeth Lowry was an utter snob, turning her nose up at anything she considered to be working class. So I didn’t like her. Then Lowry himself just felt like such a pushover. I wanted him to tell his mother to get a grip, face reality and just support him and the works he chooses to create. The fact that he was so timid put me off him as well.

Thankfully a 91 minutes running time meant that I was able to escape before completely losing the will to live. Had it not been for the fantastic performances from Spall and (especially) Redgrave, ‘Mrs Lowry & Son’ would have almost been guaranteed a place in my worst 10 films of the year. That said, it still might end up ranking there.


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