THE Irish film Some Mother's Son has received mixed reviews after its British premiere on Thursday night. Critics praised its emotional power and central performances but criticised the film makers' political perspective.
Some Mother's Son, produced by Jim Sheridan and directed by Terry George, stars Helen Mirren and Fionnuala Flanagan as the mothers of two republican prisoners involved in the 1981 Maze hunger strike.
"No more powerful, or contentious, piece of cinema has come out of Ireland recently," according to Derek Malcolm of the Guardian, who wrote: "It is clear where the film makers' sympathies lie - the Brits are caricatures, particularly the young Thatcherite monster who recommends no negotiations with the strikers. This unbalances what might otherwise have been a moving film, and one that clearly knows its subject matter.
The London Times's Geoff Brown wrote that "polemical conflict is not the main aim" of the film, which is "at its edgy best" in the relationship between Flanagan and Mirren, but descends into "at times easy caricature" in its depiction of the British authorities. Brown believed, however, that the film had "a strong enough drive and universal appeal to rise above the sectarian divide."
Quentin Curtis of the Daily Telegraph described the film as "well crafted, and intelligently written and acted. But it never quite penetrates the intractable issues surrounding its characters, leaving us more bemused than moved... the movie is as much about romantic yearning as political reality."
"This film is going to raise hackles in many quarters for its predominantly anti British stance," according to Chris Peachment of the Express, who added: "There's no getting around the fact that all the IRA men are heroic, noble and devout Catholics united in a common cause, while the Brits are led by a steely eyed little fiend who looks suited to an old movie about the Gestapo."
The Daily Mail's Christopher Tookey criticised the film's depiction of the political situation in Northern Ireland. "Just as in other recent movies such as Michael Collins, the legitimate interests of Northern Ireland's majority are simply ignored... the fact that the Irish Government has actively been helping the makers of such films with facilities and finance is likely to encourage unionist hardliners' worst anti Dublin suspicions.
"Thanks to its two fine leading performances, Some Mother's Son has moments of genuine emotional power, but politically it's as pernicious as it is naive."