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Mother And Son Review

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A slow and poignant story of love and patience told via a dying mother nursed by her devoted son.

★★★★

Mother And Son is such an intimate film that watching it feels like an invasion of privacy. Anyone who has experienced the death of a parent will recognise the helpless courage of the mother and the idiotic optimism of the son. Conversations about childhood, when the boy was so precious that the mother lived in dread of losing him, take on a cruel irony now that she is so frail and he is her sole comfort. Even the silences have a charged poignancy, as she draws on her failing strength and he composes himself for another bout of jaded encouragement.

With the lines of dialogue marginally outnumbering camera movements, Alexander Sukorov places a heavy burden on his performers. That Geyer and Ananishnov succeed in conveying the tension, dread and love of these last hours is all the more remarkable considering neither of them is a professional - she runs the Munich documentary film festival, while he is the head of Pepsi Cola's St. Petersburg operation. Long discriminated against by the Soviet authorities, Sokurov was rescued from oblivion by Andrei Tarkovsky and he repays his debt with several forest shots that recall those in Ivan's Childhood and The Sacrifice.

But the biggest influence on the look of the film is romantic art. By often restricting himself to a single light source, Sokurov reframes the action to make us concentrate on a relatively small area of the screen. But when the son carries his mother on her farewell walk around the countryside, he selects such unusual angles that it takes a second or two to recognise waving fields of corn, footpaths bathed in sunshine or clouds gathering in a glowering sky.

Discomforting in its intensity, upsetting in its inevitability, this is, nevertheless, a touching, humane and haunting film.