The Merchant Ivory production house has branded its stately and reserved aesthetic into a wealth of films: Howard's End, Remains of the Day, A Room with a View. All are directed by Ivory and produced by Merchant. More importantly, all are better than Cotton Mary, Merchant's stab at the directorial chair.
Cotton Mary (Madhur Jaffrey) is a half-Indian, half-British woman living through the unrest of 1950's India. She believes her mixed-heritage status elevates her over the other Indians recently liberated from imperial England's rule. When given the opportunity to mother a British infant, the drama unfolds. The baby's true parent cannot nurse. Caretaking Mary moves into their household, deposes an Indian servant, secretly wears the mom's English cotton. The mannered decorum of other Merchant Ivory productions appear as boredom here. Heavyhanded symbolism is no trade-off for a serious treatment of postcolonial confusion