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Terry George, the cowriter of In the Name of the Father, wrote and directed this 1996 drama based on actual events from 1981, when Irish Republican Army prisoners in Belfast's Maze Prison staged a hunger strike to protest against British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's political policies. Led by IRA prisoner Bobby Sands, the hunger strike eventually lead to the deaths of 10 prisoners, who had refused to wear prison uniforms to emphasize their identity as political (and not criminal) prisoners. But this fictionalized account is not about the hunger strikers as much as the moral dilemma faced by two of the strikers' mothers, played by Helen Mirren and Fionnula Flanagan in an emotional drama that gets right to the heart of the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland. While Annie (Flanagan) understands her son's political motivations and supports his readiness to die, Kathleen (Mirren) is a pacifist who cannot comprehend how any mother could sacrifice her own son to a political principle. The women become friends despite their opposing views, and desperately hope for a compromise in Irish-British negotiations while the hunger strikers continue to wither away. By keeping the Northern Irish conflict on such a purely personal level, Some Mother's Son both clarifies and complicates the difficult issues involved, making clear arguments for both mothers' actions in the context of a milestone event in Northern Ireland's history. The film doesn't pretend to hide its anti-British position, but the cause of death on both sides is deeply acknowledged. Through Helen Mirren's richly layered performance, Some Mother's Son asks if any belief is truly worth dying for, and poses the question on powerfully personal terms. --Jeff Shannon
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