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The Mother

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Did Freud have a word for this? In the British film The Mother, a woman begins an affair with the man her daughter is also having an affair with. The tawdry possibilities are limitless, and a lesser film would be merely tawdry. The Mother indeed has plenty of sex, much of it joyless, but it also has shattering things to say about young people anxious over getting older, and aged people anxious over getting older still.

As The Mother begins, May (Anne Reid) and Toots (Peter Vaughan), an elderly couple, are visiting their son Bobby (Steven Mackintosh) in his elaborate London home. Bobby and his wife, both workaholics, rush out with the kids almost as soon as May and Toots arrive. That leaves the old folks to chat with Darren (Daniel Craig), the carpenter who's adding a sunroom. Darren, it turns out, has a wife but is seeing Bobby's sister Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw) on the sly. Ten minutes in, Toots dies, so May moves to London and shuttles between Bobby's guest room and the altogether more modest digs of Paula, an aspiring author and single mom.

May frets about Paula's choices in men and jobs, and also about the therapist Paula is seeing. "Couldn't you just talk to your hairdresser?" a bewildered May asks. It's a telling line in a movie about changing times, and it prompts a drunken Paula to articulate a lifetime of resentments.

Later Paula sends May to learn where Darren's commitments lie, but in another drunken moment, Darren and May begin a series of afternoon trysts. Mayhem follows mayhem to a conclusion that's almost too intense to be believed. But screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid) has a knack for devising situations that seem at first glance implausible, at second glance only human.

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