Back for one night only, it's the return of VHS LIVES!
Tying two of my interests together (i.e. Irish cinema and the joys of old VHS tapes) I decided to sit down and watch this tale of the Troubles, a controversial but critically acclaimed drama that remains unreleased on DVD to date.
Although co-written by Irish film stalwart Jim Sheridan, the directing duties are given to Terry George, probably best known for his Oscar-nominated film HOTEL RWANDA.
Like that movie, SOME MOTHER'S SON is another story ripped from the headlines about a man standing up for his principles. Slightly more controversially this time, that man is a young cellmate of Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands.
The star of the film however is Helen Mirren, the mother of the young man in question, who finds her life turned upside down when her son is imprisoned and ultimately prepares to die for a cause that she can't bring herself to fully support.
Films revolving around either the IRA or related subject matter have always been touchy in the UK and this one is no exception. Its standing in the UK however is probably not helped by the inclusion of a two-dimensional villain (the nasty Englishman out to crush the Irish rebels) played by Tom Hollander. I don't have a problem with making the Brits the bad guys, but making your bad guys at least vaguely human or three-dimensional would be better from a cinematic point of view. This guy may as well have walked straight out a pantomime.
In fact, acting is a big issue with this film. As the titular character, Aiden Gillen (star of the equally controversial TV series QUEER AS FOLK) does not convince. It's not that there's much wrong with his acting exactly. He just lacks screen presence and has a habit of being overshadowed by the rest of the cast. I can't fault him from a technical standpoint, he just doesn't register highly on the charisma scale.
On the other hand, actors such John Lynch (playing Sands) and Ciarin Hinds (Sinn Fein leader), who are usually so reliable, do the best with what they've got but are woefully underused (which might not have been such an issue had Gillen been able to carry more of the film).
Leave it then to Helen Mirren to rescue the film. As reliable as ever, Mirren is at the top of her game in the role of the worried mother who gradually becomes more involved in the trouble.
The film moves along at a reasonable pace and holds the attention throughout. You can't help but roll your eyes however as the Irish pipe music gets trotted out again. Visually, the film feels very small and looks rather drab - even allowing for the fact that I'm watching it on an old VHS tape - which has the unexpected benefit of really suiting the prison scenes but slightly reining in everything else.
What will be really interesting to see however is how the film holds up against the Bobby Sands biopic HUNGER, which has scooped various festival prizes and hits UK cinemas at the end of this month (I hope to catch it before then at Cork). If nothing else, the attention might at least awaken interest in a DVD release of SOME MOTHER'S SON, at which point I can finally bin this old tape.