It doesn't get much better than Timothy Spall and Vanessa Redgrave going head-to-head in a two-hander drama. Mrs Lowry and Son may be a small film with a gentle pace but it manages to entice thanks to their nuanced performances.
After brilliantly tackling J.M.W. Turner in Mr Turner, Spall turns his hand to portraying another British artist, L.S. Lowry. By day, Lowry was a rent collector in Pendlebury, Lancashire and by night, an artist, although he didn't become well-known until middle age, when his paintings depicting the industrial life of Manchester became a hit.
Mrs Lowry and Son is set in the mid-1930s, just before Lowry's work was recognised by the art world and when he was living with his mother (Redgrave). The story is mostly set in their two-up-two-down home, where Mrs Lowry is bedridden; and explores a co-dependant relationship in which Mrs Lowry berates her meek son for his pursuit of painting.
Cruel, selfish, manipulative and overly dramatic, Mrs Lowry's control over her son is almost total but there's still humour in their conversations. When asked about her day, Mrs Lowry claims "I've not been cheerful since 1968." When she asks her son if he burnt all his paintings in the backyard the night after an argument he politely deflects by saying he didn't because it would have ruined the neighbours' washing.
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Originally a BBC radio play, this story was adapted by theatre director Adrien Noble and so understandably has a theatrical sensibility; at times it's a relief to get out of the house and see Laurence take in the world that inspired his paintings.
Mostly though, the joy of Mrs Lowry and Son is seeing these two veterans on screen together.
Cast: Vanessa Redgrave, Timothy Spall
Director: Adrian Noble
Running Time: 91 mins
Rating: PG (Nudity)
Verdict: Two pros give a masterclass.