Divided opinions, I see. Today, I watched episode 1., just to see what it was like. Two hours later, I’d exhausted catch-up, and am bereft. There has never been a TV character, (same name!) who is ME, before. She is me, and she is all my middle-aged, single, female friends with grown-up children. She’s much nicer, and more patient than me, but that is my life, I swear. Apart from the patient, strong, devoted admirer, alas. There are criticisms above of the characters of Kelly and Pauline. I couldn’t disagree more. Those women aren’t just flawed and a bit annoying, like most of us in real life, they have a back-story that is rather tragic, and beautifully played. Beautifully. My middle son has an ex who is Kelly. The ex is a Ph.D student, but the life and chat and mannerisms are the same as Kelly’s. Even the face, figure and hair are almost identical, but I can’t credit casting with that!
OH, how I enjoyed it. Along with the laughs, I suddenly burst into tears at Kelly’s mum’s behaviour, and Kelly’s reaction. That struck a chord. Have bossed my Facebook friends into watching MUM at the soonest opportunity. I congratulate everyone involved. Thank You.
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I loved Him & Her, and going into Mum I had no clue it was the same writer/creator, but you can feel it when you watch, almost as if the two are related in some way.
The pacing is excellent and the characters are so wonderfully realised. Casting is top notch and Kelly is equally one of the most endearing and irritating characters I’ve ever watched.
So surprised by how much I enjoyed this show, everything about it was enjoyable, including the soundtrack. S2E6 just made me cry and cheer, out loud, like a freakin’ crazy person. you have to give props to a show that balances bitter/sweet so well.
Watch this. You won’t regret it.
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Guaranteed to make you cry four times every episode, the final series of the Lesley Manville sitcom miraculously turns tiny gestures into epic romance
By Jack Seale
Mum is a comedy that can be agony. When it first wiped its feet, hung up its anorak and shuffled politely on to BBC Two in 2016, at times it was perhaps too painfully funny. For a season and a half, Mum was very very good, and Lesley Manville was flawless as Cathy, a recent widow bedevilled in her nice Essex semi by her insensitive relatives. It was, however, tiptoeing awfully close to a couple of traps that can snare cringe-coms.
First, the “main character is nice, everyone else is a grotesque fool” format was a little too stark, as we wondered how the saintly Cathy could withstand a torrent of micro-aggressions from her unbelievably selfish son Jason, his incredibly stupid girlfriend Kelly (Lisa McGrillis), Cathy’s outrageously crass brother Derek (Ross Boatman) and his catastrophically snooty partner Pauline (Dorothy Atkinson). Meanwhile, the forbidden connection between Cathy and her late husband’s best pal Michael (Peter Mullan) progressed by nanometres per episode, as he repeatedly stared at her benignly instead of announcing that he’d always loved her. “Character has every opportunity to say The Thing, but never does” is another sadcom trope that risks turning sympathy into frustration: just bloody say it, we almost screamed.
Having taken us right to the limit, though, writer – and since season two, director – Stefan Golaszewski was able to bring us back. Just when the supporting characters’ infernal suburban prattle about cars, holidays and whether rice can be eaten with stew stopped distracting us and we reached breaking point, there was an emotional pay-off to make it all worthwhile. Near the end of season two, Cathy putting down her washing basket to hug Michael, or the pair slyly holding hands during a fireworks display, were tiny gestures made huge by the journey we had taken to get there – and by the craft of Golaszewski, Manville and Mullan, who have the chops to turn glances, silences and desultory chats about getting to the tip before it closes into epic romance.
In the new, third and final season – bingeable in full on iPlayer – Golaszewski shows he has known exactly what he has been doing all along. The whole clan decamps to a Kent mansion on holiday, with episodes covering consecutive days rather than taking place weeks apart as previously, to celebrate Derek’s birthday. Cathy and Michael have admitted their love to each other, but not to anyone else. In this pressured new environment, those moments of release arrive harder and faster. Before now, Mum probably made you cry once a year. Prepare for that to become three or four times an episode.
Mullan and Manville remain magnificent: he has a speech in the fifth episode to rank with the greatest romcom soliloquys, and just the way he looks at her with his happily creased eyes will put sunshine in your heart for a month. But the miracle Golaszewski performs here is in humanising his small army of monsters, giving characters who were once cartoons a heartbreaking inner life that previous seasons only hinted at. It is hard to pick an outstanding member of the ensemble: maybe it’s Boatman as simple-soul Derek, whose pathetic jokes and clumsily planned spontaneity hide an insecurity that makes him willing to accept humiliation from Pauline. Maybe it is Atkinson as Pauline, who reveals the vicious sadness that lies inside any sharp-elbowed snob; she has worked with both Mike Leigh and Victoria Wood, two poles of influence that visibly pull on Golaszewski’s scripts. At its best, Mum equals them both.
The hardest job is handed to Sam Swainsbury as Jason, who is so lazy, thick and unobservant that he has always been borderline problematic. In these new episodes, his fear of Michael usurping his late father manifests in the sort of hostility that Mum would usually have skirted around. It’s another fine line that the show barely walks back from, but – whether or not it’s plausible or redemptive – Jason is the core of what the show is really about. As well as its myriad observations about family members who didn’t choose each other; and who annoy and impede each other in a hundred unintended ways each day; and who have an inkling of what they should do to make things better but aren’t always brave or articulate enough to overcome their limitations; as well as all that, season three of Mum completes a portrait of a gang united by grief. They are terrible because they’re missing a son, a friend, a husband or, in Jason’s case, a dad.
It has been worth all the pain to work these people out. Mum might have looked like it was just a sitcom, but it had something beautiful to say about love and loss. It’s said it.
The Hobbledehoy never fail to see the latest film from British director Mike Leigh. High Hopes, Life Is Sweet, Career Girls, Happy Go Lucky are each wonderful films, but the one we need to help us through the Covid-19 lockdown is 2010’s Another Year.
Why is film necessary viewing during our confinement? I love how the characters in Another Year take care of each other. The script covers four seasons in the life of one British couple, Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and their small group of friends. The couple tends a seasonal garden that requires tender care, as does their challenging friend “Mary” (Lesley Manville) – a deeply troubled narcissist trying to hold onto her youth by pursuing her friend’s much younger son. There is birth, death, disease and always much love throughout.
Leigh’s actors Broadbent (Another Year, Life Is Sweet) Sheen (High Hopes, Vera Drake) and Manville (High Hopes) each give brilliant performances.
Said one reviewer of Another Year: “Ordinary people doing really ordinary things and making these things really important.”
I suppose that’s what we are each doing during this lockdown – making seemingly ordinary things, like staying at home, really important. And caring for each other, even our crazy friends.
Have you seen Another Year ? If so, tell us your thoughts. Have your own film recommendation to help us get through? Tell us.
Ever since her Oscar nomination for Phantom Thread, work has been flooding in for Lesley Manville, finally letting US audiences see the talent evident on stage, screen and TV here for decades. The actor talks to @JanetChristie2 about new film Ordinary Love with Liam Neeson, and taking the opportunities that come her way
Life has changed a lot for Lesley Manville since she was ‘discovered’ by Hollywood last year, despite being a multiple award-winning star of stage and screen in the UK. Being nominated for an Oscar for her supporting actress performance in Phantom Thread opposite Daniel Day-Lewis has seen her career take off Stateside and given her opportunities she wasn’t looking out for, but is delighted to take up.
“I was overwhelmed by the response to Phantom Thread,” she says. “I’d have been happy to have made it if nobody had ever seen it because I had 14 of the most glorious weeks of my life and career shooting it. I thought it was a stunning film – it’s the kind of film I love anyway.
Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson are note-perfect in Owen McCafferty’s profoundly moving drama
There’s nothing ordinary about this deeply moving, frequently funny and piercingly insightful drama from Belfast playwright Owen McCafferty, making his screenwriting feature debut. On the surface it’s a tale of a middle-aged couple facing up to a diagnosis of breast cancer, and a year of medical intervention. Yet beyond this immediate diagnosis is something far more rich and compelling – a story of everyday love between two people living in the shadow of grief, facing an uncertain future, both together and apart.
Directed with wit, subtlety and great emotional honesty by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn (the co-directors of 2012’s brilliantly life-affirming Good Vibrations), it’s a singular story with universal appeal – striking a very personal chord with some viewers while finding common ground with the widest possible audience. I’ve seen it three times so far, and found it more joyous, heart-breaking and ultimately uplifting with each subsequent viewing.
Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson are note-perfect as Joan and Tom, a couple living in Northern Ireland for whom gentle bickering has become a sign of affection – a way of saying “I love you” without having to use those often awkward words. At Joan’s apparent insistence, the pair have taken up walking, striding along a waterside prom to a designated tree and back – an attempt to stave off the inevitable aches and pains of ageing. “How does the Fitbit know you’re walking?” Tom asks his ever-so-slightly exasperated wife, before insisting that the exercise “allows me to have a beer” despite her health-conscious protestations to the contrary.
When Joan feels a lump in her breast, her husband tries to reassure her that it’s “nothing”, even after initial investigations raise cause for concern. “We’ll do whatever has to be done, the two of us,” says Tom, asserting that “there isn’t a moment I won’t be with you”. Yet that togetherness will be sorely tested by a process that necessarily separates patients from their loved ones, frequently leaving Tom stewing in impersonal waiting rooms while Joan undergoes examination and surgery. “I’m glad our Debbie isn’t here to go through this,” says Joan, referring to the lost daughter whose presence still feels real, highlighting divisions between the couple’s different ways of dealing (or not dealing) with the current crisis.
Anyone with experience of a similar situation will recognise the pinpoint accuracy with which Ordinary Love depicts Joan’s journey through cancer care, right down to such tiny details as the weirdly jarring snapping sound of the mechanised syringe used to take a biopsy. Equally on the money is the depiction of the petty distractions that can accompany life-changing hospital visits – the moment of panic Joan feels when she’s called for her test results just as Tom has disappeared off to the toilet; a tense exchange conducted sotto voce while queuing to pay for the car parking.
It’s that evocation of the intangible interface between the mundane and the monumental that lends Ordinary Love such universal appeal – the sense of down-to-earth characters quietly wrestling with the cosmic mysteries of life and death, love and grief, with a mixture of sorrow and laughter. Whether it’s a tragicomic graveside musing about the metaphysics of the afterlife, or an absurdist argument about three being closer to five than one on a sliding scale of probability (apparently drawn verbatim from an exchange between McCafferty and his wife Peggy), Ordinary Love brilliantly captures that strange sense of everything and nothing happening simultaneously – to everyone.
Crucially, although the narrative is bookended with images of Tom and Joan together, the emotional separation they experience during Joan’s treatment is accompanied by an unexpected bonding with others who are going through the same thing – the “Normal People” of the script’s original title. One of Debbie’s old teachers, formerly dismissed as “arrogant”, becomes a confidante, a fellow patient with whom Joan can laugh about the indignities of chemo-induced hair loss. Meanwhile Tom (who is “always Tom”) makes a waiting-room connection that proves quietly groundbreaking, causing a subtle change that cuts to the heart of the film’s wider purpose.
With cinematographer Piers McGrail and editor Nick Emerson, Leyburn and Barros D’Sa create a cinematic space that combines the intimate domestic stillness of Michael Haneke’s Amour with an almost Kubrickian sense of alienating architecture during the accelerating hospital scenes. A beautiful ambient score by David Holmes and Brian Irvine proves as quietly powerful and moving as the film itself, like a randomly generated cellular lullaby.
As for the performances, they are simply flawless, with particular plaudits to Manville, for whom awards are surely due. A wordless closeup of her face as Joan undergoes breast imaging will stay with me forever – in her eyes, we see fear, anxiety and a hint of loneliness, mixed with a strange cocktail of acceptance and defiance, and something that still manages to look like love.