So… 🙂 This is my first list of this kind and I’m hoping people will like it and it will receive some good feedback.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993, Directed by Lasse Hallström
My first choice is a small-town drama adapted from a novel by Peter Hedges, and one of Johnny Depp’s and Leo DiCaprio’s relatively early roles. Depp plays the eponymous Gilbert Grape, a frustrated grocery bagger caring for his morbidly obese mother (Darlene Cates) and his mentally handicapped younger brother (DiCaprio, who shines here in an almost uncannily convincing performance) in Endora, a town where ‘not much happens’ populated by losers, misfits, and dreamers. Although this film explores many themes (identity, sexuality, coming of age, and the way families can nurture you or tether you down,) one of the most touching elements comes from the relationship between Gilbert and ‘Momma,’ a horrifically overweight wreck of a woman who has been eating obsessively since the suicide of her husband years before. Throughout the course of the movie, Gilbert finds it in his heart to forgive his mother for her parental failings, and Depp and Cates (who never got a role like this again) give deeply moving performances as a mother and child in a deeply fraught and dependent yet strangely caring relationship.
Some Mother’s Son, 1996, Directed by Terry George
Helen Mirren stars as the mother of Aidan Gillen (also known as Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish in “Game of Thrones,” and one of my all-time favorite actors) in “Some Mother’s Son,” which I don’t remember that well but recall well enough to know I liked it. Gillen plays Gerard Quigley, an Irish youth who joins the IRA and ends up in prison, the cellmate of fellow IRA terrorist/freedom fighter (whatever you want to call it) Bobby Sands. Sands and Quigley decide to start a hunger strike, much to his loving and apolitical mother Kathleen’s chagrin. As the situation gets progressively worse, Kathleen must decide whether to respect her son’s wishes by letting him die or saving his life. I remember my mom and I watched this one shortly after finishing a catastrophic film (one of the worst ever) and “Some Mother’s Son” was a breath of fresh air. We were like hey… this movie is actually good. It’s not the best in the world (and certainly biased towards the point of view of the IRA, if you take issue with that sort of thing. but it’s moving and oh-so-very well acted. Steve McQueen’s “Hunger” is the more popular film about Bobby Sands (Gerard Quigley is a fictional creation,) but this film should not be forgotten in the jumble.
The Living and the Dead, 2006, Directed by Simon Rumley
Mother-son relationship from hell, ya’ll. Okay it’s got nothing on the depravity that is “Bad Boy Bubby” (no outright keeping it in the family here,) but “The Living and the Dead” is a harrowing and disturbing look at what happens when an overprotected violently mentally ill man-child is left to his own devices. James (Leo Bill) is a cheeky little sicko who appoints himself ‘man of the house’ of his seriously ill mother (Kate Fahy) while his dad (the late Roger Lloyd Pack)’s away. So he locks the nurse out and begins to apply his own personal remedies to what ails his mum. The standard dosage of pills not doing the trick? Take twenty! James’ mother becomes his terrified victim as he completely loses his handle on reality. The thing is, despite his sick demented mind, James is infuriatingly naive throughout, innocent to the true consequences of his actions. “The Living and the Dead” works so well because you can sympathize with the good intentions of each and every character, perpetrator and victim. Brief moments of tenderness between James and his mother make you wish everything would turn out okay, even as you know otherwise.
Dead Alive, 1993, Directed by Peter Jackson
What can you say about “Dead Alive,” Peter Jackson’s pre-LOTR schlock-fest incorporating satire of the bullied timid son (Timothy Balme) and the tyrannical psychotic mum (Elizabeth Moody,) who actually improves upon becoming a zombie? It’s undisputedly one of the goriest films ever, with bombastic scenes of bloodbath and dismemberment and subpar acting, but it brings upon a certain affection upon recollection (for me, anyway.) Anyway, who doesn’t love that ass-kicking kung-fu priest?
Who do you think should have been included? Feel free to comment with any feedback or suggestions for my next list!