"A non-violent fight for life"
SOME MOTHER’S SON is based on actual events that led to the 1981 hunger strike of IRA political prisoners. The story takes these larger events and personalizes them into a story of a mother’s fight for her son’s life as he joins other prisoners in the protest strike. This compelling performance by Helen Mirren as the mom, resilient in her convictions, is marred by many obscenities, moderate violence and some nudity.
It is 1979 in Northern Ireland and an ordinary Irish family sits down for breakfast. Mom, Kathleen Quigley (Helen Mirren), lends her car to son Gerard (Aidan Gillen) believing he needs to go buy a new pair of shoes. However, Gerard uses the car to help Frankie, a friend and Irish Republican Army (IRA) fighter, in a bombing incident. Gerard is SOME MOTHER’S SON. During a Christmas dinner at Frankie’s house, the British invade the meal with a shoot-out and capture Frankie and Gerard. Both men are charged with murder and given a life sentence without parole.
As a shocked and disbelieving Kathleen comes to terms with the fact that her son is an IRA terrorist, Frankie’s mother, Annie (Fionnula Flanagan), is all fired up with her son’s cause, having lost another son earlier to the British. The two mothers clash in their differing perspectives on the British-IRA “war.” Kathleen is a firm believer in non-violence while Annie believes in whatever it takes to fight the cause. As both try to help their sons, they begin to form a friendship despite their differing views.
In prison, Frankie and Gerard join other IRA prisoners in refusing to wear prison clothes, draping themselves in blankets as a form of protest against their imprisonment. Gerard shares a cell with Bobby Sands (John Lynch), an actual IRA terrorist, who in the film and in real life, gains fame as the inspirational leader of the prisoners. A distraught Kathleen, meanwhile, lives through the torment of hearing her son describe how they have to wipe their feces on the walls of the prison because there are no other outlets. As Kathleen inevitably gets drawn into the protests and demonstrations of the prisoners, men on the hunger strike begin to die.
The mounting pressure to save the prisoners is heightened when a member of Parliament, who is also a strong IRA supporter, dies of a sudden heart attack. In an enlightened moment, the Irish population begins campaigning for Bobby Sands to be elected. When he finally wins the polls, it is a little late. Bobby dies from his hunger strike. As negotiations begin to break down between the Irish and the British to stop the hunger strike, Kathleen makes a last minute decision to save her son’s life.
The story is based on actual events resulting in the deaths of 10 men from the hunger strike. The strike, which finally ended on October 3rd, 1981, becomes personalized through the story of a mother’s personal fight to save her son’s life. Helen Mirren plays Kathleen with grace and strength. Unwavering in her stand on non-violence, Kathleen is a paragon of commendable virtue in the story, stopping her younger son, Liam, from throwing a rock at a British army truck in the midst of a violent disruption. Her patience and commitment to non-violence, her unquestioning love for her son despite his participation in violence and her ability to transcend the differences with Annie to form a friendship with her, reflect the admirable character of Kathleen.
However, this seems to be the only strength of the film. Despite its appealing storyline, and its portrayal of the larger and more controversial issue of the IRA cause, the film ultimately is bland and flat. Absent are high points or moments of dramatic interest and this uninspiring and utterly predictable script gives no new revelation about inner strengths. Lacking these, the film does not make any lasting impressions. It is only commendable through the character of Kathleen with her resilience in her convictions.
(B, C, LLL, VV, N, D, M) Moral worldview slightly skewed by depicting a woman’s firm belief in non-violence, with references to priests, Catholicism & communion; 33 exclamatory profanities, 14 vulgarities, & 12 obscenities; some scenes of violence between the British & the IRA involving bombings, shooting, breaking up demonstrations, outbursts in court, protests in jail by IRA prisoners, & the use of guns & explosives; smoking; and, deliberate starvation, protest demonstrations, spreading feces over prison walls, urine thrown in woman’s faces, & lying
SOME MOTHER’S SON occurs in 1981 when IRA prisoners fight to claim their status as prisoners-of-war and not as criminal prisoners. The protest is led by Bobby Sands, who initiated the famous hunger strike, and later won an election as an MP while dying from starvation in prison. This story of the prisoners is told through the dilemma of Gerard. Gerard’s mother Kathleen fights to save her son’s life and inevitably, gets drawn into the passion of the cause. Through it all, Kathleen is resolute in her stand against violence and wins her battle for her son through non-violent means.
Despite its controversial subject, the film does not make much dramatic impact. The story is told with great predictability. The only highlight is Helen Mirren as Kathleen, a mom who sticks to her convictions with grace and strength. When the world around her explodes with violence, Kathleen stands unwaveringly for her own personal cause. There are many references to the Catholic faith, but there are many scenes of violence between the Irish and the British. We also hear a liberal use of exclamatory profanities which are unnecessary and disrespectful to the Christian faith. This film did not make use of many opportunities to send messages of faith, hope and peace.