Directed by: Niall Johnson – Starring: Rafe Spall, Emilia Fox, Elaine Cassidy, Richard Cordery, Susan Jameson, Bobby Lockwood, Ross McCormack
Some movies are just designed to shamelessly pull at your heartstrings, and when the opening scenes feature a father telling his sons that their mummy has died, you just know that Mum’s List is going to be one of them. Mind you, anyone familiar with the source material probably already knows that, as Mum’s List is actually based on real-life events.
Kate Greene (played here by Fox) died of cancer in 2010, but not before she had compiled a list for her husband St. John – known better as Singe – (Spall) to help him raise their sons. The list included everything from her favourite foods and pastimes, to musical instruments she would like the boys to play, to the hope that Singe would settle down with someone new, so the boys would have a female influence in their life.
Here the story is told in a time-hop fashion, as we jump back and forth between Kate and Singe’s life together, their teen romance, and Singe’s life post-Kate. We learn that their son Reef had also battled cancer, and see Kate undergoing brutal chemotherapy in the hope that she can be cured. We see Singe struggle to cope after her death, and her best friend, Rachel (Cassidy) trying to pull him back into the real world, and stop him wallowing.
Unfortunately, this storytelling method doesn’t really work here. At times it’s confusing, as you try to figure out exactly where you are on the couple’s timeline. Meanwhile you feel like you are only ever getting snippets of the story, rather than the big picture.
The scenes with Kate and Singe as teenagers will surely arouse feelings of nostalgia in many, thanks to the 80s soundtrack. Meanwhile, Spall and Fox make a lovely on-screen pairing. Fox in particular is excellent here, which makes me wonder why we don’t see her on the big screen more. Ultimately though, it feels like the movie is telling Singe’s story, so Spall has a lot of weight on his shoulders. On the whole, he steps up to the plate, but there were one or two scenes where I felt he wasn’t really ‘in it’.
They aren’t helped by the fact that we never really get to know them properly. We’ve no idea what they do, what their lives are outside of each other and illness, or even what sort of a support network they have, as her mother and his parents are only seen in passing, and then pretty much forgotten about. We are introduced to Singe’s brother, but he has gone through an entire monologue before we are told who the character is, meaning the audience has been scratching their head in a bewildered state, wondering just who is this person Singe is venting to.
There is some stunning cinematography here, and the coastal scenes look stunning. The soundtrack is also fantastic. But it doesn’t make up for the disjointed storytelling. Thanks to the power of Fox’s performance, you will still feel yourself welling up, but on the whole, Mum’s List is trying so hard to be sentimental and move you, that it ends up a bit of a mess.
This is nice and sweet, and will leave many with a lump in their throat. But it is also inconsistent and confusing in places, and never really feels like it does proper justice to Kate.
However, if you are looking for a weepie and can look past the flaws, you’ll enjoy Mum’s List.
In Cinemas Now! See Trailer Below: