Christopher Menaul (director)
Bill Kenwright Films (studio)
24 March 2017 (released)
Another Mother’s Son is based on the true story of Jersey resident Louisa Gould (played by Jenny Seagrove) who takes in a Russian escapee in 1942. The Germans are using The Channel Islands as a base where prisoners of war are used as slave labour.
Feodor (Julian Kostov) escapes the camp and is discovered by Louisa who – with sons fighting in the war – decides she can’t give him up and decides to harbour him. She’s aided by her sister, brother and village postmaster (Amanda Abbington, Ronan Keating and John Hannah respectively). She calls him Bill for short and a curious relationship is struck up.
While the outcome is almost inevitable, the story is intriguing and in some respects almost incredible – after a few months, and lucky escapes, Bill is wandering around freely, helping out in the village shop as if he’s part of the furniture. However, it’s the complex social set up of the community during the occupation that is almost more interesting.
Writer Jenny Lecoat deftly weaves in the resistance, the collaborators and grasses, the liaisons between the German troops and some of the women on the island. Choices are made, some of which can be seen with more sympathy than others. The young woman whom Louisa confronts for ‘fraternising’ with the enemy, draws some understanding. The bitter settling of old scores, to the extent that these could lead to imprisonment and deportation to the camps, doesn’t.
Seagrove is superb channeling an obvious motherly instinct for Bill with an infectious optimism, plus her defiance of the occupiers. She’s joined by a cast of seasoned actors (along with the aforementioned there’s Susan Hampshire and Nicholas Farrell) who aren’t going to let anyone down. Kostov is fine as Bill and Keating is ok, though the accent did cross the Irish sea a few times. Director Christopher Menaul paces the film well, imbuing it with rural charm, though carefully tinting it with the bleakness of occupation.
The core of the story is not unique but the occupation of the Channel Islands hasn’t been covered much in films and remains a little-known part of the Second World War. That gives the film an element of curiosity and the fact that the events are true adds great pathos.