|for Timothy Spall's refined turn as another renowned English artist, having already portrayed Turner
|Timothy Spall, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Keogh, Stephen Lord, Wendy Morgan
|30th August 2019
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
It’s 1934 and forty-something Laurence Lowry (Timothy Spall) still lives at home with his mother Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave) in Pendlebury in Lancashire.
He’s followed in his late father’s footsteps, making a modest living by collecting rent from his neighbours by day. In the evenings, he cares for his cantankerous, frail old mother and by night, he retreats to the attic to indulge in his true passion – painting.
No-one is interested in his art and the only write-up he’s ever had in the local paper was dismissive to the point of insulting and he’s never received any encouragement from his mother, who’s constantly urging him to get another hobby – and find a job befitting the status she feels she should have, having given up on the prospect of bring a concert pianist, her husband.
But Laurie is determined to make something of himself and when one of their more refined neighbours takes an interest in one of his paintings, Elizabeth finally starts to see some merit in his work.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Having won plaudits for his turn as the nineteenth century landscape master JMW Turner, Timothy Spall is now inhabiting another British painter – the early twentieth century social artist LS Lowry.
Famed for his images of the working-class area of Lancashire where he spent much of his life, it was only in his later years that his work was acclaimed.
This film depicts a period when he was struggling for attention in the art-world, with his ailing mother constantly goading him to better himself – largely by insulting everything he does.
Largely a two-hander and set almost entirely in Mrs Lowry’s bedroom, it feels very theatrical – and while Timothy Spall quietly underplays his character, Vanessa Redgrave’s melodramatic mother would feel similarly at home on stage. Spending the whole film in bed clearly poses a challenge for an actor.
It’s an interesting tale of a bullying mother, still dominating – and crushing – her adult son and his efforts to bite his lip, hold his tongue and continue loving her, despite her offering him almost nothing back in return.
For a film about an artist, we don’t see much painting – and we also don’t see much of what drives his creativity, so we don’t learn much about what he’s trying to say or how he says it. We do, though, get a sense of what he’s up against – the clue is in the title – as he tries to be taken seriously as an artist and turn his hobby into a career.
Rather than a grand, colourful extravaganza about a famed painter, full of artistry and glamour, this is very much a intimate, almost claustrophobic family drama – without enough at stake to be truly engaging.