In Christopher Menaul‘s period drama, Louisa [Jenny Seagrove], is a shopkeeper making the best of things on Nazi-occupied Jersey. Around her, boys in flat caps tear around the beautiful countryside on bicycles, Nazis parade in their pomp, and the stage looks set for a cosy, Sunday tea time film about plucky Brits surviving against the odds.
After an isolated scene of brutality towards a Russian Prisoner of War, we continue to be lured into a false sense of security as kind-hearted Louisa agrees to shelter an escapee Russian slave-worker with the help of her family and friends, played by John Hannah, Nicholas Farrell and Ronan Keating. She names him Bill, after uncharacteristically refusing to rise to the challenge of learning his Russian name. Through a series of heart-warming scenes, we see her care for Bill, encourages his artistic gifts, and find relief, through his company, from her own loneliness and grief – so far, so Goodnight Mr Tom.
A series of near-misses unfolds as the usually sensible, sharp-minded heroine inexplicably decides to take Bill out of hiding and parade him around the island. They go on jolly outings to the beach and to the capital, St Helier, both of which teem with Nazi officers. The tension generated by these close-shaves is somewhat dampened by a sense of confusion as to why on earth she would put him in danger in first place.
The risk of discovery increases throughout 1944, along with the noise of the Royal Air Force flying overhead. The planes bring the family hope of imminent liberation, and lure anyone who doesn’t know their history into believing that things are about to be absolutely fine, that Jerry will soon be sent packing and we can all have tea.
When they are eventually betrayed, Louisa and her collaborators face the Nazis, and a twist regarding the family’s own identity adds to the sense of impending doom. The single scene of horror that encapsulates the mercilessness of the Nazis is all the more striking when contrasted with the warm and Heartbeat-esque style that is sustained throughout rest of the film.
It’s a moving, solid, well written drama, but don’t expect many deviations from the formula, and don’t expect an Oscar nomination for Ronan Keating.
Another Mother’s Son is out in cinemas now.