RR Films: Fathers, Mothers and Children

This week’s topic is based on local news. Very local: I’m going to see Bob Mortimer tonight with my son.

Not headline stuff, I agree, but I’m pleased that we share a sense of humour and get on pretty well. But in the movies that isn’t always the case…though things often turn out well in the end. Similarly with mothers and daughters.

You get three RR topics to play with for films about parent/child relationships. I’ll kick off with Nebraska, with Bruce Dern in fine ornery mood:

What films about mothers and daughters and fathers and sons would you recommend?

26 thoughts on “RR Films: Fathers, Mothers and Children

  1. The Winter Guest“, with Phyllida Law and Emma Thompson as mother and daughter (also mother and daughter in real life). Directed by Alan Rickman. Frances (ET) is recently widowed. She lives in a small Scottish coastal town with her son, and is thinking of emigrating to Australia; she has “shut down” after the bereavement. Anyway, she receives an unexpected visit from Elspeth (Phyllida Law), who is worried about her. The film is set in a day in an icy, dark Scottish winter and follows 4 sets of characters. Nothing really happens. But the mood, and the sea mists, are so evocative. Is Elspeth the winter guest? Is Death the winter guest? Make up your own mind.

  2. Hmm, not my favorite topic. I do noir, not families. My first thought, immediately rejected, was the vilely manipulative Terms of Endearment. I’ll quickly replace that with Five Easy Pieces.

  3. Thinking about recent films, there is, of course Room from last year. A mother and son relationship where the son has absolutely nobody else and isn’t even aware that other people are real – and not “just TV”.
    The year before, there was the French Canadian film Mommy. I spent the first 30 minutes or so thinking “I hate these characters” and wondering whether to just walk out. I didn’t because it was so mesmerising. I just couldn’t look away.
    It featured the potentially alienating device of having the whole thing filmed in portrait rather than landscape (like it was filmed on a phone) and (IMO) some of the most oddly worded subtitles ever. Sometimes a mix of southern Americanisms and cockney which surely can’t be representative of how French Canadians speak.
    The young man and his mother are both pretty dysfunctional and so is their relationship but something emerges from this that seemed to transcend their (many) problems. They are helped in this by a neighbour, a teacher, who has a few problems of her own. And the few (2 or 3?) scenes where the picture suddenly turns to “landscape” and fills the whole screen were inexplicably exhilerating. A very odd film and not everyone’s cup of tea. I still wasn’t sure if it was mine as I left at the end but I do want to see it again.


    One of the landscape bits!

    • Room also has the contrasting reactions of the freed mother’s parents: Mum manages to be supportive but Dad can’t get over what was done to his daughter, manifested in his grandchild.

      I saw Mommy too (I gave it 7/10), although even the trailer brings little back to mind. I don’t know whether my memory is getting worse or I watch too many films with flimsy plotlines…..

    • I’ve not seen Room or read the book. But by a similar token there is the Jody Foster film called Panic Room I think which also features a mother and daughter, this time, holed up in a confined space to avoid intruders in their house.

  4. The first thing that occurred to me is East Is East, about a Pakistani immigrant, Zaheed Khan, who has lived in Britain for decades. Popularly known as George, he has two wives, one in Pakistan and a second, Anglo-Irish one in the UK. They’ve been married for many years and have seven children. George and his Uk wife Ella run a local fish and chips shop.

    The film, based on a play of the same name, is all about inter-generational tensions in the family and the children’s rejection of Pakistani traditional ways and their desire to become more British.

  5. There is only one film that is essential viewing in this category for me and that’s “Meantime”, the 1983 Mike Leigh classic which is still probably his best film and, for me, the best film ever made about the English working class. The Pollocks live in an East London council flat and consist of mother, father and 2 sons (one of whom is backward). The father and sons are all on the dole and the film shows in spirit crushing detail how the hopelessness of the Thatcher years affects the family. The father’s sister is an aspirational “Tory” with a pucker new home in Essex and the contrast between the 2 families couldn’t be starker (although her marriage is both childless and loveless). The main plot revolves around her offering Colin, the backward son, some wages to help redecorate her house. Mark, the other son, takes against this as he feels his brother is being “used” by his Aunt. The plot sounds simplistic but all the facets of the English class system are brilliantly woven together along with great performances by Phil Daniels and Tim Roth. You might even say that the relationship between the 2 brothers is one of the strangest yet most touching love affairs ever put on a film screen. Unmissable.

  6. The Road. A bleak film based on one of Cormac McCarthy’s novels of the same name. Set in a post apocalyptic future, it features a father desperate to keep his son safe on a quest to reach the ocean. It’s heart-warming and heart-breaking all at the same time. The book is a worthy alternative to the film – as long as you don’t mind a dark read.

  7. Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s extraordinary 2014 film, shot over 12 years with the same cast, about a young boy growing up and his changing relationship with his parents, step-parents and sister. I love it. Plus, it’s set in Texas and I’ve been to several of the locations!

    • Oh, and a dond for Nebraska. I worked for a while for a charity that supported young people with learning difficulties, and they would often receive the same kind of letter that Bruce Dern’s character gets. They would bring them in to the office for me to explain them, and when I said the letters weren’t real and they should just throw them away, of course that wasn’t what they wanted to hear at all and it would all be my fault. I never went on any journeys with them though.

  8. Donds for Nebraska

    Will go for Incendies

    A dying Woman in Canada, from the Middle East leaves letters for her twin children to pass on to their Father & a Brother, neither of whom they knew.

    TV. I Claudius. Imperial family saga still holds up despite dodgy sets.

  9. It just occurred to me that ” The White Ribbon” by Michael Haneke would also be a bloody good fit for this topic – lots of children, lots of inter and intra family tension !

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