Flanagan is fabulous as the proletariat mom. She alchemizes small and big bits of business into a performance bubbling with fresh folk legendry and humor: at her peak she refuses to sit beneath a portrait of the Queen hanging on a pub's wall. Ruddy, freckled, and on the strong side of stout, she's like a gorgeous, weathered swath of Irish landscape. And Mirren, though she starts as tentatively as the character herself, gains in authority as the film develops. When Gerard lies prone and exhausted in his hospital bed, Kathleen won't crack and condone his politics to give him comfort. Nor will she relinquish her parental rights: Her intransigence saves him. She and Flanagan have a heart-rending breakthrough when Kathleen emerges shaken and crying from the prison after Gerard takes up the hunger strike. With a flash flood of empathy washing away all past resentments, Annie urges Kathleen to get a grip in front of the prison personnel--before she collapses into tears herself. The movie is about the need to preserve life without betraying comrades. Mirren is the one who finally clarifies that theme while George shows the men nattering over bargaining points. She brings the film the gift of a fine-grained consciousness.
Some Mother's Son.
Helen Mirren, Fionnula Flanagan, David O'Hara, Aidan Gillen. Written by Terry George and Jim Sheridan. Directed by George. Opens Friday.