The troubles in Northern Ireland are given yet another spin in Some Mother’s Son, which takes the point of view of the mothers whose IRA-affiliated sons were jailed by the British. This emotional perspective is designed to transcend mundane political details, but the fact remains that the action is dominated by the realities of domestic violence, prison life and a prolonged hunger strike. The directorial debut of Terry George, co-scenarist of In the Name of the Father with present co-writer and producer Jim Sheridan, doesn’t come within hailing distance of its predecessor artistically or commercially.
A fictional story centered on the events surrounding the death, during a hunger strike, of IRA member Bobby Sands, who was elected to Parliament while in an Ulster prison, pic takes off with newly elected Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s get-tough policies against the IRA in 1979. Young Catholics Gerard Quigley (Aidan Gillen) and Frank Higgins (David O’Hara) are quickly apprehended.
Their mothers are drawn slowly together despite their vastly different political stances. Kathleen Quigley (Helen Mirren) is a schoolteacher adamantly opposed to violence who didn’t even know her son was politically active. The tough-minded Annie Higgins (Fionnula Flanagan), however, lives for the day the Limeys leave the Emerald Isle for good.
As Kathleen is ever so slowly brought around to the necessity of political activism, the pic dwells at length on the protest schemes of the prisoners, who all adopt mangy Jesus Christ-like martyr looks and delight in upping the ante against the Brits. The film also focuses on the nasty machinations of the Thatcherites, personified by yuppie-scum functionary Farnsworth (Tom Hollander).
The pic has a vivid, realistic feel due to the location shooting, but George’s direction is pretty cut and dried, devoted mostly to getting information across in the most straightforward manner possible.