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Another Mother's Son
Timed for release on Mother's Day weekend, director Christopher Menaul's well-intentioned drama pays tribute to one unsung hero of the Second World War, who risked her life for a tortured stranger. While friends turn on each other to curry favour with German invaders, the self-sacrificing matriarch remains stoic in the face of barbarity. "If we're not better than them, what are we fighting for?" she rages, eyes twinkling with defiance. As scripted by Jenny Lecoat, great niece of the story's valiant heroine, Another Mother's Son is a solid portrait of one of the first recipients of Her Majesty's British Hero of the Holocaust Awards, who found her voice on 1942 Jersey, the only home territory to fall under Nazi rule. It's a remarkable page from history recreated on a modest scale by Menaul, who evokes the period with a colour-bleached palette to reflect the gloom of the islanders' plight. Jenny Seagrove delivers a measured performance as the maternal protector, who is delighted to hear British planes flying overhead and goads one Nazi commandant, "Don't let me keep you from your packing." Her bravado is tragically misplaced. Abandoned by Winston Churchill, Jersey becomes a prison under the control of the Third Reich. British citizens who were not born on the island are dispatched to Germany, while prisoners of war arrive by the boat load to build a hulking concrete wall to repel allied counter attacks. Grocery store proprietor Louisa Gould (Seagrove) doles out rations to neighbours and family including her brother Harold (Ronan Keating), sister Ivy (Amanda Abbington) and brother-in-law Arthur (John Hannah), who covertly monitors communications to the Germans through the local post office. A Russian POW called Feodor (Julian Kostov) escapes and seeks refuge under Louisa's roof. One of her sons, Ralph, has recently been killed in action and the grief-stricken mother tearfully welcomes Feodor as a surrogate, christening her guest Bill. "You don't know anything about him," Arthur spits. "Some of them are convicted criminals!" Louisa cannot bear to cast out the POW and she teaches him English in the hope he can avoid suspicion. The matriarch believes wholeheartedly in the goodness of fellow islanders and cannot bear to think that neighbours like busy-body sisters Lily (Gwen Taylor) and Maude (Joanna David) might report Bill to the Nazis. Louisa's trusting nature could be the downfall of everyone she holds dear. Another Mother's Son has flecks of humour and tugs heartstrings to the gentle tempo of composer Mario Grigorov's melancholic score. Every frame is sincere, but the film is light on tension and character development. There is no doubting the real Louisa Gould's selflessness and gallantry in a time of unimaginable bloodshed. However, her remarkable story merits a broader and richer canvas than director Menaul can muster here.