Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's a very very very fine house

Many years ago, probably August of 2009 since that seems to be the last time it was on TCM, I saw the movie Our Mother's House on TCM. It's one that I'd always wanted to see because when we were kids there was a paperback copy up on the bookshelf, and I always remembered the auther for his impsoing-sounding surname, Julian Gloag. The movie itself turned out to be wonderfully creepy, and I've been waiting for it to show up on TCM again so that I could do a blog post about it. It's finally back on the TCM schedule for this evening at 6:00 PM. You'll definitely want to catch it since it's been five years since the last showing and it doesn't seem to be on DVD.

The setting is one of those big old London houses which look more appealing than they really are, as this one houses a single mother and her seven children. The mother is sickly and eventually dies, which poses a serious problem. The older kids realize that when the authorities learn of Mom's death, they're going to split up the siblings and send them to various homes, which none of them really want at all. So the oldest kids learn how to forge Mom's signature so they can continue to cash the benefit checks, and bury Mom out in the back garden and turn the place into a bit of a shrine.

I told you it was creepy. Ah, but it's going to get more creepy. They have to keep up the fiction of Mom being alice, which is tough because you do have people who are going to be coming to the house and because the younger siblings have understandable difficulty with things like reality versus fantasy and because young kids are notoriously bad at keeping secrets. You can only imagine the mental pressure that the older siblings put on the younger ones to keep their existence going. And when another kid shows up to the house having run away, that threatens to blow the whole thing up too.

But that's eventually not the biggest of their problems. Just as the social workers are about to figure out what's going on, who shows up but Dad (Dirk Bogarde), who's been out of the picture for years. Or, at least, he claims to be Dad, and that's the problem. In theory, he might be able to help support them, but on the other hand, he might give away their secret since he's an adult and much better equipped at dealing with the outside world than the kids are. Worse than that, he knows some secrets about their mother, which causes the older siblings to become increasingly paranoid of him.

For me, Dirk Bogarde was the only recognizable name in the cast. But this isn't a movie about the actors so much as it is about the story, and it's a story that works well, being as disturbing as it is. From an outsider's point of view, the kids have serious problems, and yet we can't help rooting for them to get away with their ruse, as far-fetched as it is, because that's all they know. (The question of what happens when they grow up is left unanswered.) There are movies out there that are objectively better made, but in terms of entertainment value you could do far worse than watching Our Mother's House.

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