Good Mother

Nora is a middle-aged granny on an estate, staying in her small flat with her 20-something weans, and wee granweans. She works two jobs to keep a roof over their heads, getting up at the crack of dawn to take buses to the airport, then as a home help looking after an elderly neighbour who is more like a friend. Nora is well-respected by everyone she meets, whether it’s her co-workers at the job, or the drug-dealers on the estate, or the family of her elderly neighbour.

Contrasted to this is Nora’s daughter, Sabah, who she doesn’t get on with. Sabah has a 4-year-old daughter, and is frustrated with her inability to provide for her financially. Unemployed, over the course of the film she tries to train as a dominatrix, but finds it difficult to hold on to even that. Where Nora is forbearing, Sabah is full of complaints. Where Nora takes any job, even two, Sabah reviles the low-paid jobs, relying either on sex work or benefits. Where Nora meets with respect from everyone, Sabah is treated like dirt by everyone, including her mother.

It really hurt me to see Nora’s interaction with Sabah. Nora has one son in the jail, another lying sleeping in his bed while she cleans and cooks after working two jobs. To them she is nothing but a font of patience and praise. When her daughter leaves the granwean alone in the next room while she takes a shower, Nora talks to her like a piece of shit, reduces her to tears, and effectively tells her she’s a bad mother who puts her kid’s life at risk.

When Nora’s son needs money to pay his lawyer, she pawns all her jewellery down to her wedding ring. When Sabah comes home and hands over nearly half the amount due from her earnings, Nora’s first word is, “Is this money haram?” No “Thanks”. No “Cheers hen, that’s guid of you.” No, only suspicion and insinuation she’s done something wrong.

Sabah’s not likeable like Nora, because she’s not a martyr like Nora, but my heart just broke for her. Where’s her support? Jesus, they’re both single mums, how about a bit of solidarity?

Good Mother asks what is a good mum? Does it have to be about living as a paragon of work and sacrifice? Or is Sabah prioritisation of finding a way to provide for her daughter financially enough?

This film is carried on the excellent performances of the cast, every one of which are great, but especially those within the central family unit. I wondered if they all hung out between shoots, because they really felt like a family. Talking over one another, slagging each other off. The family dinners are just full of warmth and chatter, and the 4-year-old gives such a natural performance, you think she must have felt very comfortable and at home.

Good Mother is about the pillars who hold up society and the family. They are nameless and invisible and go largely unsung, but their contribution is most treasured by those they touch.