A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mrs. Lowry & Son is a biopic about British artist L.S. Lowry's (Timothy Spall) strained relationship with his ailing mother. Lowry's mother, Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave), emotionally abuses her son with insults and cruel language. Constantly criticizing his paintings, she also blames Lowry for not providing a better life for her. Despite the bullying, Lowry continues to look after her, showing both kindness and empathy. Lowry also demonstrates perseverance in continuing his painting, undeterred by his mother's words. Anger and frustration come to a boil in two separate scenes, which result in a collection of paintings being destroyed with a knife and a living room getting smashed up after heated arguments. One dog is antagonized with a stick, and another is kicked. A naked bottom is seen when a character gets out of a bath. There's some drinking by adults and use of the word "bloody."
What's the story?
MRS. LOWRY & SON tells the story of artist L.S. Lowry (Timothy Spall) and his strained relationship with his mother, Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave). Set in 1934 -- five years before both her passing and Lowry's first taste of success -- the film chronicles Elizabeth's ongoing attempts to discourage her son's artistic ambitions. Bedridden and bitter about the life she's had, Elizabeth takes her frustration out on her son, who attends to her every need. But Lowry also continues to paint, finding beauty in his surroundings and an escape from his overbearing mother.
Is it any good?
Redgrave and Spall -- two of the U.K.'s finest actors -- are in almost every scene, giving performances that you'd expect from actors of their pedigree; unfortunately, the movie itself is slow. What starts off as an intriguing mother and son relationship soon becomes a depressing, repetitive affair. Elizabeth, despite her ill health, is largely unsympathetic. While her bullying is integral to the plot, the reasons behind her behavior are never fully explored, apart from some references to a failed career as a concert pianist. And Lowry's unflinching loyalty to her, while commendable, just infuriates.
There are tender moments between the two in Mrs. Lowry & Son, but they're short-lived, and when Lowry is at his lowest, Elizabeth's lack of empathy leaves a bitter taste. Those familiar with Lowry's work will enjoy seeing some of his best-known paintings come to life. But those with just a fleeting interest in the artist are likely to find themselves bored.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship between Lowry and his mother in Mrs. Lowry & Son. How do you think her behavior makes Lowry feel? Would you call this behavior bullying?
Do you think Lowry's mother's attitudes toward his paintings would have changed had she known that he'd become famous? If so, why?
How accurate do you think Mrs. Lowry & Son is? How can we know what's true to life and what might have been altered? Why do you think filmmakers might choose to change the events in a fact-based movie?
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