TOP 10 MOTHERS IN FILM
A look at some of the most memorable mothers in film


 To celebrate Mother's Day, we've been taking a look at some of the most memorable mothers in film – and here are ten of our favourites.  We've steered clear of some of the more monstrous mothers out there, and focused on the kind of mums you'd be glad to have on your side: flawed, maybe, but good'uns, nevertheless.

 

 

Submarine_Sally_Hawkins_Thumb.jpg

 

1. Sally Hawkins as Jill Tate –  Submarine, 2010

While Jill Tate unwittingly causes teenage son Oliver (Craig Roberts) to go through a whole series of adolescent neuroses thanks to her feelings for ex-boyfriend Graham (Paddy Considine), who's just moved in next door, her heart is always in the right place.  Sally Hawkins' understated performance of a woman coping with a troubled marriage and unexpected temptation is brilliant.  Her hilarious reaction of relief when Oliver announces that he has a girlfriend is sheer comedic perfection, and if you haven't seen it, you should.

 

 

Angelina_Jolie_Changeling.jpg

 

2. Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins – Changeling, 2008

The tagline of this film, based on true events, is: 'To find her son, she did what no-one else dared'.  Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins, a mother in 1928 Los Angeles whose nine-year-old son Walter vanishes.  Several months later, the LAPD present her with 'Walter', and try to convince her that the boy they've found is her own child.  Declared as hysterical and locked in a mental institution when she tries to stand up to the police and government, Christine never gives up fighting to expose their corruption – and, as the closing text tells us, continues to search for her son, even when there is little hope that he has escaped a convicted murderer.  It's hard to watch at times, and Angelina Jolie gives a heartbreaking performance.

 

 

Diane_Venora_Romeo__Juliet.jpg

 

3. Diane Venora as Gloria Capulet Romeo + Juliet, 1996

I love the beginning of Baz Luhrmann's film, where Miriam Margolyes' Nurse and Diane Venora's Lady Capulet chide the day dreamy Juliet into preparing for the fancy dress ball.  Gloria Capulet, dressed as Cleopatra, is a formidable, theatrical character, exaggerated by the super-stylised camerawork and direction.  In a classic case of 'mum knows best', Juliet's mother tries to encourage her to fall for Bachelor of the Year, Dave Paris – a much more sensible prospect than her one true love, DiCaprio's doomed Romeo.  The thing is, Paris did have an over-inflated ego, and the cheesy moves he pulled on the dance floor at the Capulet mansion were particularly stomach-turning, but you have to concede that he is easy on the eye – and let's face it, she could have saved herself a whole lot of drama if she'd just listened to her mum from the start.

 

 

Emma_Thompson_Love_Actually.jpg

 

4. Emma Thompson as Karen    Love Actually, 2003

Sister to the hopelessly love struck Prime Minister (Hugh Grant), source of emotional support to recently bereaved friend Daniel (Liam Neeson) and wife to weak-willed womaniser Harry (Alan Rickman), Emma Thompson's character, Karen, is above all a mother who puts others before herself.  When Karen is hit with the realisation that her husband Harry has some kind of involvement with another woman, she is shocked and heartbroken, but puts her hurt to one side in order to plough on with being a good, cheerful mother to kids Daisy and Bernard as they prepare for the school nativity play.  Emma Thompson's performance here is enough to bring a tear to the eye of any rom-com renouncer.

 

 

Darlene_Cates_Gilbert_Grape.jpg

 

5. Darlene Cates as Momma (or Bonnie Grape) What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, 1993

Johnny Depp's eponymous hero quietly plods on through the frustrations of his familial duties in the small town of Endora.  That is, until he meets Juliette Lewis's free-spirited character, Becky, who wakes him up and helps him to appreciate what he has, just before it's too late.  This is a tragic, but sweet, and sometimes funny, film, and in Darlene Cates' first acting role, she plays Gilbert's mother, largely confined to the house due to her size.  Although Gilbert has been forced to assume the paternal role since his father's suicide, Momma is very much the centre of the family.  The scenes that show her love for her children, including Gilbert, his two sisters, and mentally challenged brother Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio), are hugely touching, as are the physical and emotional struggles she faces.  Knowing that Darlene Cates had been largely housebound herself for the five years' prior to the film's release makes you marvel all the more at her performance.

 

 

Bjork_Dancer_In_The_Dark.jpg

 

6. Björk as Selma Jezkova Dancer In The Dark, 2000

Selma is a shy, poor, hardworking factory employee who loves to sing and dance, and can transform the daily din of the heavy machinery she's surrounded by into a full-scale musical in her head.  In this beautiful, heart-wrenching film, Selma tries to conceal the fact that she's rapidly losing her eyesight, in order to continue to work and save money.  She hopes to save enough so that her son Gene can have an eye operation to stop his sight going the same way.  Her efforts seem futile though, and the injustices wrought on her towards the end of the film are terrible, and all the more so because of the sweet fragility of Selma's character and her strong sense of motherly love.  Finally, Selma's belief in the American dream is turned on its head as the Czech immigrant's fate is sealed by the very society and culture that she dreamt of being a part of.

 

 

Whoopi_Goldberg_Colour_Purple.jpg

 

7. Whoopi Goldberg as Celie Johnson    The Colour Purple, 1985

Based on Alice Walker's novel, if you've seen this film you just never forget it.  The cruel moments of Celie's life stay with you: the two children she bears, fathered by her own father, are taken away from her; she is separated from Nettie, the sister she adores; and she is married to an abusive man, 'Mister', whose children she cares for in return for beatings and subordination.  Thankfully, though, she begins to discover a sense of self through an unexpected source – her husband's lover, singer Shug Avery, who she has to cook and clean for.  She does dare to dream about being reunited with her children – and eventually, after a lifetime of hardship, in the most joyous and well-deserved happy ending in the history of film, she is.

 

 

Jo_Hartley_This_Is_England.jpg

 

8. Jo Hartley as Cynth This Is England, 2006

It's 1983; you've been bullied for some time on account of the seventies' flares you're forced to wear to school; you miss your dad, who died in the Falklands, and things seem altogether dismal.  One day, though, you make friends with a bunch of much older kids who take you under their wing and even give you a makeover – the girls shave your head and the boys give you a new checked shirt, boots and braces so you fit right in.  You'll never be bullied again.  You've even got your eye on a love interest, called Smell.  Everything's all-of-a-sudden pretty idyllic, when into the cafe walks... Mum.  The shame...!  I love the character of Cynth in this film, especially the scene where she has a word with Woody and the gang about Shaun's new look, providing much-needed softness in this hard-hitting film.

 

 

Chocolat_Juliette_Binoche.jpg

 

9. Juliette Binoche as Vianne Rocher Chocolat, 2000

Who wouldn't want a mother like the character of Vianne who, in this film set in 1950s rural France, can not only make the whole, highly conservative town see the importance of tolerance, but at the same time help friend Josephine escape from an abusive marriage, help friend Amande (Judi Dench) to be reunited with her grandson, attract the likes of Roux (Johnny Depp), encourage you to enjoy your imagination as much as you like – and make mouth-watering, life-changing chocolates to boot?

 

 

Annabella_Sciorra_Cradle.png

 

10. Annabella Sciorra as Claire Bartel The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, 1992

I watched this as an eleven-year-old and still feel slightly uneasy when I walk into a very large greenhouse.  In a tale of 'chillingly evil, beautiful nanny' vs. 'nice mild-mannered mom', it's fitting to end on a film where, eventually, your bog-standard, asthmatic lady prevails.  Essentially, this is due to the fact that she's managed to raise a very fast-thinking six-year-old who can outfox Rebecca De Mornay's Peyton at a crucial moment in the final fight.  A woman can only take so much, though – and having had her best friend (Julianne Moore) murdered in the greenhouse, her trusted handyman branded as a paedophile, her husband's head turned, her baby breastfed by an impostor and her inhaler emptied, mother Claire finally does what we'd been hoping she might have the lung capacity to do all along: she pushes the crazed Peyton out of the attic window, to be impaled on the picture-perfect white picket fence.  Phew.  Just another day in the life of a multi-tasking mother, then.

 

 

Words by Emily Gravenor

 

 

Who are YOUR favourite mothers in film?  Let us know on Twitter or in the comments section, below.


comments powered by Disqus
Follow Studio Magazine on TwitterFind Studio Magazine on Facebook