No doubt released to coincide with Mother’s Day, Another Mother’s Son is based on the true story of shopkeeper, widow and mother, Louisa Gould, who hid a fugitive, Russian PoW soldier during the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands. Starring Jenny Seagrove as Gould, this slow- burn, episodic, period drama was written by Gould’s great-niece, the comedienne and writer, Jenny Lecoat.
The film is set in Jersey between 1942-44 and shows the island residents wrestling with the pressures of life under Nazi invasion. Jews and British citizens not born on the island are being deported, “First the Jews, now the English. Who’s next,” asks Louisa (Lou). Curfews are imposed, cars are seized and food is in increasingly short supply. An atmosphere of fear and mistrust pervades throughout the tight-knit community. Lou, along with her teacher brother, Harold — played by Ronan Keating in his second acting role — sister, Ivy (Amanda Abbington) and village postmaster brother-in-law, Arthur (John Hannah) support each other in order to get by. Lou refuses to give up hope — both for her two sons fighting for the Allies abroad and for a rescue by Churchill’s forces.
When Lou is asked to shelter a wounded, Russian soldier who has escaped from a slave labour camp on the island, she initially refuses. But two incidents cause her to change her mind: the death of one of her sons and the sight of another internee’s dead body on the beach, caught in barbed wire trying to escape. Lou takes Feodor (Julian Kostov), whom she nicknames “Bill,” into her home and soon treats him as one of her own.
The relationship between the two is affecting enough but Bill’s character is under-developed and Seagrove, with a questionable Cockney accent, is rather bland as the strong-willed and stoic Gould. Her defiance and unwavering faith — both in the Church and in her community’s loyalty — prevent her from seeing the dangers of hiding Bill in plain sight, a decision she makes after a few months of secrecy. She takes him shopping, cycling and he even helps out in the shop. But tightening rations lead to tensions and neighbourly suspicion, with devastating consequences for Lou and her family.
The film is burdened by a superficial dialogue, which includes lines such as, “We mustn’t start turning on our own,” and “Where is God?” as well as a cast that does not quite gel together. Although Another Mother’s Son picks up pace in its final act when Lou is betrayed, overall it feels more like a mediocre Sunday evening wartime TV drama series than a feature film.
Once arrested, Lou is asked, “Are you a Jew, Mrs Gould?” To which she retorts: “Mind your own bloody business.” Frustratingly, the question is not explored further. This remarkable tale of bravery and courage deserves to be told but disappointingly, Another Mother’s Son does it little justice.
‘Another Mother’s Son’ is released on 24 March