Another Mother’s Son
Jersey, 1942. As Hitler strengthens his grip on Western Europe, The Channel Islands fall into occupied hands. Used by the Germans as a base where prisoners of war are put to work in slave labour camps, the residents of Jersey face a future of uncertainty and fear which frays tempers and tests loyalties among the tight-knit island community. One such resident is Louisa Gould (Jenny Seagrove), who refuses to give up hope for the island she holds so dear, for her sons fighting abroad and for a rescue by Churchill’s forces that never seems to materialise. When a Russian soldier called Feodor (Julian Kostov) escapes the labour camps, seeking shelter, Lou realises she can’t simply hand him back. Alongside her sister Ivy (Amanda Abbington), brother Harold (Ronan Keating) and the village postmaster Arthur (John Hannah), Lou decides to harbour the fugitive, striking up a bond with the young, intelligent man she calls Bill for short, whom she soon treats as her own. As rations on the island become scarcer and tensions rise among the inhabitants, Lou’s defiant attitude and cavalier approach to hiding the fugitive in plain sight arouses suspicion from the Nazis and distrust among her neighbours. Facing the prospect of capture and deportation to Germany, Lou plays a dangerous game of cat and mouse to keep Bill safe from harm, refusing to believe that the wider community will betray her. In doing so, she risks paying the ultimate sacrifice for her duty to her friends and a young man caught up in the horror of war
At first, there is a bit of a familiar taste to this true-life wartime tale. But it becomes something tougher. The film is, moreover, an interesting reminder of something that the British prefer to overlook assomething it doesn’t quite fit into the Churchillian narrative of never surrendering: the Nazi occupation of British territory – the Channel Islands. It wasn’t just the French who suffered the misery of occupation, and the sordid nightmare of people pursuing petty grudges with anonymous letters to the Nazi authorities. Jenny Seagrove gives a fierce and capable performance as Louisa Gould, a Jersey woman who hid a fugitive Russian slave-worker, nicknamed Bill (Julian Kostov). John Hannah, Nicholas Farrell and – unexpectedly – Ronan Keating take supporting roles as islanders. The film persuasively suggests that Louisa shelters Bill as a quasi-son figure, after her own son is killed in the war. There are some almost outrageously contrived suspense moments as Louisa takes mad risks, letting Bill go for walks and bike rides into town, where German soldiers are to be found. Yet truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. A decent, heartfelt, robustly presented drama.