Contributed by Matt Donnelly
ITV drama is in a great shape so far this autumn. The Last Weekend, the upcoming Mrs. Biggs and now an extremely tense and brilliantly acted two-parter in A Mother’s Son. It’s the story of the difficulties of combining two families, mixed with an immediately intriguing murder mystery plot.
The story begins with a girl running along a beach. We follow her through the long reeds, she trips and the person she is running from catches and kills her. The scene directly following sees lovely prim and proper deli owner Rosie (Hermione Norris) take a call from her son Jamie (Alexander Arnold) that his sister Liv hasn’t arrived home on time and immediately we the audience are asked to put two and two together. We believe that it is Rosie’s daughter who was running on the beach. Thankfully Liv (Ellie Bamber) returns home safely and it isn’t long before another girl, Lorraine Mullary, is reported missing. While Rosie finds this devastating she’s happy that her own extended family is safe. Soon though she starts to have doubts about Jamie as he lies about losing his trainers, which she later finds with blood-stains on, and we also see him in the early stages of the episode putting the washing machine on. A teenage boy doing washing? That would certainly raise suspicion in any household.
Rosie’s concern grows as Jamie becomes more aggressive and she doesn’t feel supported by her new husband widower Ben (Martin Clunes) whose two children also live with Rosie and her kids. When Ben’s daughter Jess (Antonia Clarke) starts accusing Jamie of spying on her in the shower the two parents side with their respective children. This as you might suspect leads to an argument which ends with Jamie going off to stay with his dad David (Paul McGann) who doesn’t think his son should be raised by another man. Though David and Rosie clash early in the episode she relays her suspicions to him and asks her to spy on him which leads him to the discovery that Jamie is hanging out with a known sex offender Sean Christie (Josef Altin) whose influence may well have caused their son to murder Lorraine.
From the opening scenes in which we see Jamie put on the washing machine and lie about his trainers it was pretty clear to me that he was the obvious suspect and if this is the case then I believe the drama will ultimately feel slightly anti-climactic. The script written by Chris Lang, who as well as working on Hustle and Primeval also used to be one of The Housemartins, uses Rosie’s suspicions as a way to spotlight what is wrong with her new family who have only been together less than two months. It is clear that Ben and Rosie love each other but as she rightly points out when something goes wrong they’re always going to side with their own kids. The fact that she goes to David with her suspicions instead of Ben shows that she isn’t completely comfortable with her new husband and indeed the second episode may well see a slight reconciliation between her and her ex.
While I found Rosie’s emotional story fairly gripping her investigative work left a lot to be desired and the scenes in which she tried to find out if her son was indeed capable of murder stretched credibility to an extent. I didn’t believe that she’d go all CSI and try to identify the blood on the trainers although I do think a lot of mothers want to learn how to access their teenage son’s internet history but not for the reasons she did. Indeed if any teenage lads are watching they’d probably be hopping onto their computers straight after the episode in order to clear some of the naughtier websites from their browser history. Similarly David’s stalking of his son was pretty unbelievable. Would he be allowed to hang out outside of a school without being noticed? I suppose we have to occasionally just accept certain plot points in order for the story to advance.
For me what made A Mother’s Son so gripping was Hermione Norris’ performance as she perfectly captured what a normal mother placed in extreme circumstances would do. Norris’ concerned mother routine was spot on as were the scenes were she tried to be a parent to Ben’s kids with him shooting her down. Though the investigative scenes weren’t always believable Norris tried her best to make them as realistic as she could though she did excel in the parts of the episode where she had to confront Ben about their relationship. It’s interesting to see Martin Clunes in a full on drama. Clunes brings a caring side to the character and somebody who always tries to do the best for everybody, even if that means hiding the flowers he’s bought for his late wife’s grave from his current partner, however as the drama goes on it is revealed that this isn’t always possible. Of the supporting cast I thought Shameless’ Annabelle Apsion was great as Lorraine’s distraught mother, while Spooks’ Nicola Walker wasn’t in the piece nearly as much as she should’ve been.
A Mother’s Son is certainly an intriguing drama which drew me in with its interesting mystery storyline and the fact that it uses a murder to explore the cracks in Rosie and Ben’s relationship. As I already mentioned if Jamie does turn out to be Lorraine’s killer than I feel A Mother’s Son will have a fairly flat ending however Lang seems to be pointing us towards Ben’s son as another possible suspect. I personally have my own views to I think did it but I won’t divulge them as I think part of the beauty of a drama like this is for everybody to make their own minds up over how they think it will end. It is a brilliant twisty story that is very relate-able and shines the light on “blended” families beautifully. It serves as further proof that, when they get the right script and cast ITV can still produce quality drama.
A Mother’s Son concludes tomorrow at 9.00pm on ITV