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Jefferson Kline, T. (1997). Some Mother's Son. Psychoanal. Rev., 84(6):952-955.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Review, 84(6):952-955

Some Mother's Son

T. Jefferson Kline

Terry George might well group his cinematic work under the generic title, Parenthood. As a kind of sequel to In the Name of the Father (which George wrote and Jim Sheridan directed; they exchanged those roles for their second film), Some Mother's Son returns us to Belfast, where the ongoing struggle between the IRA and the British Government catches the Irish people in its vise. Both films focus with remarkable intensity on the prison experience of sons jailed and abused by the Thatcher government's antiterrorist campaign, but the circumstances of each could not be more dissimilar. Father's son is a victim of false accusation and suffers injustice and indignity simply because he is Irish. Mother's son is a terrorist, or rather, in the logic of the film's narrative, a martyred prisoner of war. Within that single shift of register, Some Mother's Son weaves a web of suffocating entanglement.

In the film's first images, we see Gerard Quigley (Aiden Gillen) as a tiny figure on a fishing boat returning across the Belfast Lough in the wintry early morning light. Instead of the Christmas carols that would be appropriate to the season, Bill Whelan's soundtrack prevents any possibility of a festive feeling: This is Northern Ireland; we are at war. To punctuate the state of siege, the British forces blow up a bridge just as Gerard's boat is docking and he must rush off to meet with his IRA group to plan a retaliation. Not everyone, however, believes retaliation is the proper response: Gerard Quigley's widowed mother (Helen Mirren) teaches music in a local parochial school, and is an outspoken opponent of violence. Sometimes, however, morality and belief systems get blurred and confused by family matters. Mrs. Quigley loves her son too deeply to resist when he pulls her into his orbit.

Gerard and fellow IRA buddy Frank Harris (David O'Hara) borrow the family car to carry out a rocket attack against the British convoy stationed nearby, and then disappear again. Mrs. Quigley has no idea, of course, of the real mission her car has served. For her, life goes on without conflict.

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