A novelettish plot is given a degree of stature in “A Mother Alone,” a partial return to form by Sri Lankan helmer Sumitra Peries after her stodgy, long-haul “The Eldest Daughter” three years ago. Another in her continuing look at Asian female characters, this uncluttered yarn centered on a young, unwed mother will be lucky to attract much offshore interest, despite some positive aspects.
Set during an unspecified period (the ’30s?) near the end of British rule, story follows Thushari (Sangeetha Weeraratne), plain Jane daughter of a bankrupted businessman, as she’s dispatched to the countryside to live with various aunts after becoming pregnant by a boyfriend who leaves her in the lurch. The first aunt, Soma (Wasanthi Chathurani), turns out to be having an affair with a young stud; at the house of the second, Thushari attracts the wandering eyes of Seeladasa (Sanath Gunathilake), who is being paired off with Kusumi (Yasodha Wimaladharma), Thushari’s cute cousin. Tragedy almost follows.Though attractively shot on a budget, pic moves at a snail’s pace, with little music to help it along or create atmosphere. Peries’ basic, unadorned directing style starts to pay dividends in the second hour, but it’s a long wait for relatively little.
Rather than the focus of the drama, main character is more a viewfinder for a look at upper-middle-class social mores in late colonial Ceylon. Performances range from wooden (Gunathilake) through distanced (Weeraratne) to livelier playing from Wimaladharma as Kusumi.