Mother Love

Mother Love

1989 - United Kingdom

A masterful exploration of the dark side of love and its destructive potential, Mother Love is a psychological thriller that captivates its audience with an intricate plot, intense performances, and a chilling portrayal of maternal obsession with Diana Rigg in a commanding and haunting role.

The story begins with the seemingly idyllic relationship between Helena Vessey and her son Kit, a successful lawyer who is still living at home. As the plot unfolds, it becomes evident that Helena's love is anything but normal. Her possessiveness and need for control over Kit’s life grow increasingly disturbing.

Mother Love

The tension escalates when, following a whirlwind romance, Kit marries Angela. A kind and intelligent woman who works as an art gallery assistant, Angela has agreed not to mention that Kit has, for some time, been seeing his father, Alex, who divorced Helena and remarried many years ago. Helena's jealousy and paranoia, seen in flashbacks, had driven Alex away and now the same possessiveness is driving her to extreme lengths to maintain her influence over her son, leading to a series of manipulative and sinister actions.

Mother Love

Reluctantly accepting Angela into her home, Helena allows the couple to settle but is unaware that all the while they are maintaining their secret relationship with Alex and his new family; his wife Jordan-an American actress and their two (twin) children.

Tragedy strikes when Kit is diagnosed with a brain tumour and emergency surgery leaves him paralysed. Helena tends to him in the hospital but gradually starts to uncover evidence of how Kit and Angela has been visiting Alex. She follows Angela to Alex's home and very quickly her mental instability manifests itself into intense and irrational behaviour to the point where she becomes totally unhinged.

Helena formulates a plan to poison Alex and Jordan's twins by lacing some marzipan with laburnum which will be delivered at a party. But another girl eats it first and is rushed to hospital after she has been found in a convulsive state in the garden at Alex and Jordan's home. Angela, realising that Helena is the poisoner, also rushes to the hospital arriving just after Helena has disconnected Kit's life support.

Adapted by Andrew Davies from the novel by Domini Taylor, Mother Love delves deeply into the psychological motivations of its characters. Davies’ adaptation maintains a tight narrative that keeps viewers engaged with its suspenseful and often shocking developments. The dialogue is sharp and evocative, revealing the complexities of the characters and their relationships.

Director Simon Langton creates a claustrophobic and unsettling atmosphere that mirrors Helena’s deteriorating mental state. The use of close-ups and shadowy lighting effectively conveys the tension and paranoia that pervade the story while the cast delivers strong performances.

Mother Love

James Wilby as Kit and Fiona Gillies as Angela bring depth and realism to their characters. Wilby’s portrayal of Kit depicts the conflict of a man torn between loyalty to his mother and love for his wife. Gillies’ Angela is a perfect foil to Helena, embodying warmth and stability, which only intensifies Helena's irrational behaviour. David McCallum’s portrayal captures the tension and complexity of Alex’s relationship with Helena, adding depth to the character dynamics throughout the series, but it is Diana Rigg's performance which is nothing short of mesmerizing; she seamlessly transitions between the charming, affectionate mother and the menacing, unhinged woman, keeping viewers on edge throughout the series. Her portrayal of Helena is both sympathetic and terrifying, and deservedly won her a British Academy Television Award for Best Actress, reminding us of how much depth the once young Avenger was capable of.

Published on June 19th, 2024. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.

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