Directed by Roger Michell, starring Anne Reid, Daniel Craig, Cathryn Bradshaw, Steven Mackintosh and Peter Vaughan.

May (Reid) and husband Toots (Vaughan) go to London to see their children, Paula (Bradshaw) and Bobby (Mackintosh), and get to know their three grandchildren a little better. But the visit is hit by tragedy when Toots suffers a fatal heart attack, leaving son and daughter with the dilemma of not how their mother will cope but what they'll do with her.

Bobby brings her home back up North but May decides she's returning with him to London. The problem then arises of how to live close to someone you're not close to: Bobby can't stand May while Paula is laden down with mother-daughter issues - and plenty of others beside.

Despite the simmering grudge, however, Paula needs May's help. She's in love with Darren (Craig), a friend of Bobby's who's trapped in a dead marriage because of his autistic son. At breaking point, Paula wants her mother to find out where Darren thinks the relationship is going. But the longer May spends with the younger man the more her affection for him threatens to pull an already distant family further apart.

Written by Hanif Kureshi, 'The Mother' won't leave anyone thinking that latter years can be golden ones but its challenge to both age and gender prejudice is something there's just not enough of onscreen. Best known for directing 'Notting Hill' and last year's 'Changing Lanes', Roger Michell doesn't shy away from controversy in his depiction of the sex scenes between Reid's and Craig's characters. However uncomfortable they will make some people feel, the poignancy of the line, "I thought nobody would ever touch me again except the undertaker" is something that stays in the mind far longer.

This is Reid's film and her brave and completely natural performance as a woman who chose duty over desire is backed up by strong work from Bradshaw and Craig, who does well with an underwritten part. The problem is that none of the characters is that likeable and you end up watching as an interested observer rather than a hooked viewer. It's a film that could've saved half-an-hour while still saying exactly the same things, and the hopeful ending would have been far more powerful if Michell had realised that.

Harry Guerin