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Review: Mrs Lowry and Son

Film poster

L.S. Lowry has always been an artist I was acutely aware of. Whether you like his paintings or not, his artistic influence is around the area I grew up in Greater Manchester and beyond. After all, those were the industrial landscapes he became synonymous for.

Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve had a print of Lowry’s hanging on the wall and at school we sang the “Matchstick men and matchstalk cats and dogs” song in assembly. We went on field trips to Salford Quays, first in 1999 to see the Lowry Arts and Entertainment centre being built and after the millennium to see plays performed there and to visit the galleries – something I’ve continued into adulthood.

I wanted to see the film Mrs Lowry and Son but was disappointed to learn it wasn’t being shown at my local cinema and the nearest showings were difficult for me to get to in south Cumbria. Luckily, a community screening of the film was shown this weekend at the Arnside Educational Institute, by The Dukes Theatre in Lancaster.

The film was a delight, mostly a double header featuring Vanessa Redgrave and a trim Timothy Spall. I can’t imagine any other actors playing those roles. Spall has got the demeanour of Lowry and I had to admire Redgrave’s Salfordian accent, similar but in many ways distinct from Mancunian and she captured it.

It’s mostly a double header between the two and tells the story of Lowry at the beginning of forging a career as an artist. Seeing beauty within people and in a landscape that others dismiss. The narrative follows Lowry’s search for acceptance in his work but mostly from his own mother.

There’s some stylised elements, which play nicely alongside the realism of the story. Mill workers stopping in their tracks so Lowry can examine their intricacies is an example, as is the ending… which you’ll have to watch to find out what happens!

Although set in Pendlebury, it was nice to see certain scenes set in my hometown of Stockport. The Crowther Street steps feature prominently and there’s a nod to the photograph where Lowry is seen with the viaduct in the background.

The interval interrupted the narrative flow somewhat, but gave a glimpse into cinema’s past appropriate for the time period that the action takes place. It allowed for a raffle to be drawn and for the audience to discuss what they had seen. There was a lovely community feeling to the screening, something that you can sometimes miss at a larger multiplex.

As with most films, it’s special to view as a collective experience and the same can be said for this, with many humorous touches and moments of tension. Mrs Lowry and Son is a particularly poignant film but subtly done. At only an hour and half running time the film, like the man himself, is unassuming but filled with artistry on every level.