ANOTHER MOTHER’S SON Film Review.
Director: Christopher Menaul
Genre: Biography, Drama, War
ANOTHER MOTHER’S SON is a fascinating film based on an incredible true story. During World War II, Jersey was under Nazi occupation and became a kind of prison island. Amid hardship and privation, some islanders led an unofficial UNDERGROUND resistance. Jenny Seagrove stars as one such ordinary individual – no-nonsense widow Louisa Gould, a village shopkeeper.
On Jersey Russian prisoners of war were used by the German army as forced labour. When one of them escapes and is brought to her, Lou takes him in at great personal risk, hiding him in her house. “How would we want our own boys to be treated?" she says in justification. For her, it's only common decency to do so, and, to her, that's what Britain is fighting for.
Her own son has been killed while serving in the British army and her compassion for the young Russian (Bulgarian actor Julian Kostov) leads her to start treating him almost as a son substitute, one of the family, giving him the English name Bill. But as time goes by, she becomes overconfident, taking Bill on outings into St Helier with her with false identity papers, even though the streets are dangerously full of German soldiers, and, as he learns English, letting him serve customers in her small shop, careless of the fact that Jersey is full of informers who are willing to denounce people like her to the Germans. Her brother-in-law (John Hannah), who’s married to Lou’s sister Ivy (Amanda Abbington), is a manager at the local post office and he tries to intercept one such letter naming Louisa as tension builds and discovery seems imminent.
The film has a strong empathy for the island community, though it was actually filmed in Somerset, and it evocatively recreates the austere wartime environment of rationing and the harshness of the German treatment of the locals. Louisa Gould was, in fact, the film's screenwriter Jenny Lecoat’s great aunt Lou, and she started to research her family’s story in 2012. Lecoat says there was a narrative that Jersey had collaborated during the war but she wanted to show that there were also lots of courageous acts of resistance. But it’s frustrating in the film to see Lou behave in such a reckless way and risk so much, but, according to Lecoat, she was a devout Christian and patriot, who believed that the community would look after each other.
Jenny Seagrove’s unglamorous, passionate performance creates a courageous, stubborn woman, brusque at times but full of love, and the centre of close family relationships. But in the end, her goodness is her downfall. Though Lou's story is suspenseful and ultimately tragic, it has a televisual feel. Boyzone’s Ronan Keating is a solid support to Seagrove as her teacher brother Harold, surprisingly good in his first serious acting role. There are cameo appearances by Susan Hampshire, as the owner of Lou's shop, and Joanna David, as an elderly spinster neighbour wearing traditional island dress. The director is Christopher Menaul, known for the television series The Forsyte Saga and Ripper Street. The end credits movingly reveal the fates of Lou, Bill and the others during the rest of the war and afterwards.