Mum's List | A dying mother's life lessons for her sons add up to a first-class weepie

Mum's List Emilia Fox

Mum's List Emilia Fox

Kiss the boys two times after I've gone.

Rafe Spall and Emilia Fox are touchingly down to earth in Mum's List, a first-class weepie based on Somerset paramedic St John Greene’s best-selling book about his late wife Kate’s battle with breast cancer and the list of hopes and plans she wrote for her two young sons in the weeks before she died.

Writer-director Niall Johnson handles the couple’s story with deft care, cutting adroitly back and forth between three time periods. One strand charts the progress of Kate’s illness, which cruelly occurred shortly after their eldest son, Reef, had narrowly survived a rare form of cancer. Another follows the efforts of the bereaved St John, universally known as Singe, to cope with the loss of his wife. And the third shows the pair’s guileless teenage romance after meeting at a rollerskating rink.

The result is a film that is unpretentious without being dull, moving without being mawkish, and sweet without being sentimental. Fox is superb as the stoic Kate, while the scene at a dinner party in which Spall’s Singe likens the pain of bereavement to struggling against the sea’s undertow will knock you off your feet.

Certificate 12A. Runtime 101 mins. Director Niall Johnson

Mum's List debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere on Sunday 12 November. Available on DVD and Digital from Soho Studio.

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.