Hollywood leading men can act 'til they drop, but leading ladies find the parts drying up the second they hit 40. In Britain though, we appreciate our older actresses. Dame Judi has never had it so good, Dame Maggie shows no sign of slowing down, and Calendar Girls is a virtual who's who of mature female talent.
Sixty-eight-year-old Anne Reid was reportedly offered a part in Girls, but turned it down to play the title role in The Mother. Great move: her performance as a gran finding love and sex during her twilight years is a masterclass in pathos, grace and emotion. Of course, it's the sex part of the equation that'll get folk talking. But why? It's not as if women relinquish their passions the moment they get their bus passes.
Yet writer Hanif Kureishi has more on his mind than smashing taboos. The Mother is also about class, family and how the older generation are ignored by the younger when they have seemingly outlived their usefulness.
Arriving in London to visit their son (Steven Mackintosh) and single-parent daughter (Cathryn Bradshaw), May (Reid) and Toots (Peter Vaughan) are regarded as unwelcome nuisances. When Toots dies, May is expected to meekly return up north. Instead she stays in the city, moves into her son's house and embarks on a secret affair with a kindly builder (Daniel Craig) half her age. "I thought nobody would touch me again, apart from the undertaker," May says after their first encounter. And it's to the credit of helmer Roger Michell that he depicts this unconventional romance without once compromising Reid's dignity or inviting ridicule.
The fallout from this union proves unnecessarily histrionic, with Bradshaw in particular overdosing on moral outrage and hysteria. Even so, it's hard to imagine any other writer/director team treating this tricky subject with such tact, restraint and genuine compassion.
Excellent work from Reid and Craig results in an audacious and moving film that's sure to set tongues wagging. You'll never look at Auntie in the same way again...