Some Mother's Son

on December 27, 1996 by Ed Scheid
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   Some of the loudest applause at Cannes was for "Some Mother's Son," the latest in the series of contemporary Irish films dealing with the historical predicament in Northern Ireland. The film is the directorial debut of Terry George, who co-wrote the script "In the Name of the Father" with Jim Sheridan. If "Some Mother's Son" is any indication, Sheridan and Neil Jordan have a new and talented peer in the Irish renaissance of the '90s.
   It's 1981. Kathleen ("The Madness of King George's" Helen Mirren), a widowed schoolteacher, is against the violence of the IRA. Unknown to her, her son Gerard (Aidan Gillen) is an IRA member. Gerard and a friend are imprisoned for activities against the British. Led by Bobby Sands (John Lynch, Mirren's "Cal" co-star), the IRA prisoners refuse to wear prison uniforms and go on a hunger strike. Kathleen unexpectedly becomes close to Annie (Fionnula Flanagan), the mother of the friend who was sentenced with her son. As the hunger strike continues, they desperately try to do whatever they can to save their sons' lives.
   One of the many strong elements in the film is the outstanding performance by Mirren, who shows both the deep anguish of Kathleen as her family life is destroyed and the inner strength that remains. Flanagan gives fine support as a mother embittered against the British who have killed her older son. The film is firmly on the side of the Irish, but never seems preachy. Both the script and George's direction effectively focus on the continuing human loss that results from the violence in Northern Ireland. The prison scenes, Kathleen's growing political involvement, and the women's confrontations with leaders on both sides of the issue are staged ith maximum impact, giving a human face to one of the 20th centuries most stubbornly persistent and wasteful conflicts. Starring Helen Mirren, Fionnula Flanagan and John Lynch. Directed by Terry George. Written by Terry George and Jim Sheridan. Produced by Jim Sheridan, Arthur Lappin and Edward Burke. Drama. Rated R for language and for some political violence and suffering. Running time: 112 min. Screened at Cannes in Un Certain Regard. Won the Felix award for young European film. Opens 12/25 L.A.; expands 12/26 to eight more markets
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