“Mum” (2016 – 2018)
Created, written and Directed by: Stefan Golaszewski
Featuring: Lesley Manville, Peter Mullan, Sam Swainsbury, Lisa McGrillis
English television shows about singular characters are not new or even that original especially in this day and age which means that if you are wanting to watch new similarly themed shows then they had better have something to say that is at least original, hopefully compelling to audiences that may have at this stage feel like they have seen it all. This brings me to the new series “Mum” (2016-2018) which has just been released on DVD in New Zealand and Australia in one set containing both series.
The show concerns a sixty-year-old woman who has become a widow in a time of her life where she should be enjoying not only her life but the remainder of it with her partner as well as her family and friends. It also shows how life can pass people by, one day they wake up, they are getting old, wondering where their life went as well as the shock that what they may have expected has been taken away in a very real way that signals the finite state of our existence. Of course these are pretty serious themes that are explored but are done so within the framework of what is a fairly standard British comedy framework that has been seen numerous times over the past decades. So the question that really needs answering is does this show succeed, is it worth watching and is it funny?
“Mum” is a 2016 British sitcom written by Stefan Golaszewski centred around recently widowed, suburban 59-year-old Cathy (played by Lesley Manville) and her family, during the year following her husband’s death. Each episode is named after a calendar month in this year. Each episode is set in Cathy’s house and features her supportive lifelong friend Michael (played by Peter Mullan), and her family: son Jason and his girlfriend Kelly, Cathy’s brother Derek and his new partner Pauline, and Cathy’s in-laws.
There is no doubt that this show is made all the better by the lead performance of Lesley Manville who has always been a great stage and screen actress but there gets to play a real person as well as being funny in a very dry kind of way, it is truly a subtle performance. It’s a quiet triumph, made all the more affecting by its attention to small detail next to the exaggerated portraits of those around her. It’s very funny, very affecting and reveals real insight into the ways humans covers up pain with brashness, silence, laughter or a smile.
This show really looks at what happens when a partner dies and your life is changed forever. Consequently, a person may feel like they have also lost their purpose, certainly, there is a large element of confusion about what role you should play in the world going forward. The redefining of life after loss is one of the more overwhelming aspects of losing a spouse. As part of the grief process, it’s necessary to accept that your life will never return to the way it was before your loss.
While you may have to figure out “what to do” rather quickly, figuring out the “who you are now” is usually a slow process. Often, it starts to happen naturally less from any deliberate actions that are taken consciously. So there may be an identifiable way that dynamics of old time friendships begin to shift. Beyond relationships there are other facets of life that people need to change. There is a bottom line – grieving is hard, and the inevitable changes that come packaged with your initial loss make it even harder to bear.
There are elements of “Mum” that do seem out of place or reactionary, also sometimes the show does not seem to know what it is in terms of genre so there can be some inconsistency in terms of feel as well as humor. Is this a love story, a drama, a comedy, a social or political commentary, who really knows, these are things that should have been sorted out in the creation, maybe it will be something that is ironed out as the show movies forward, I hope so as the actor’s are better than the material for long stretches.
The real reason to watch the show is Manville who has been such a great actress, it is easy to see why she is Mike Leigh’s most used actress, she adds some realism to the show that is needed, in a way I do wish that this was a one person show where we witness who journey after the loss of her husband with small appearances from her support people. This would really make the show about something many of us have or will go through at points in our lives, but it would also fit thematically as if this happens we are ultimately left alone no matter how many friends or family we have, we are the ones that either have to move on or remain stuck in some sort of limbo, which is what this show is about.
I do recommend this show as a very good entertaining watch that does show there is life after sixty as well as life after the loss of a persons partner in life.
- Cathy’s family gather at her house on the day of her husband’s funeral.
- It’s Cathy’s first Valentine’s Day without her husband, and her family come round to keep her company.
- The family help Cathy clear out her garage.
- Cathy gets ready to go for lunch with a new friend.
- Kelly is worried about moving to Australia, and Michael and Derek are recovering from a night out.
- Cathy hosts a New Year’s Eve party.
- It is Cathy’s 60th birthday and to celebrate the family are going out to lunch.
- It is Easter Sunday and Cathy and Michael have plans to clear the front room together. Jason and Kelly have other ideas.
- It is early summer and Cathy has invited everyone around for a barbecue. Pauline and Derek bring his punk daughter, Danielle.
- Kelly and Jason are leaving early on holiday. Michael has had a bad night.
- Maureen is in hospital. Cathy sees Michael for the first time in months.
- Cathy is having a bonfire. Michael is moving on but Cathy has something to tell him.
“Mum” is out now on DVD.