Cotton Mary (2000) - Rotten Tomatoes

Cotton Mary (2000)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Cotton Mary Photos

Movie Info

Ismail Merchant, best known as a producer for his work with director James Ivory (including Howards End and A Room With a View), takes possession of the director's chair in this drama. In 1954, seven years after India has gained independence from Great Britain, many Indians still feel like second-class citizens in their own country, as the nation's sovereignty has not immediately erased the perception that the British are superior to the Indian-born natives. Such a woman is Cotton Mary (Madhur Jaffrey), who works as a nurse for Lily Macintosh (Greta Scacchi), the wife of a BBC correspondent. Mary claims she's the daughter of a British regiment officer (although she has no firm evidence), and she sees herself as more British than Indian. While she takes offense at racist comments, she often states her belief that most of her people are unclean and dishonest, and her personal philosophy is informed by Christianity as much as the Hindu teachings with which she was raised. When Lily gives birth prematurely, Mary has to find a wet nurse for the child, and she uses this to win greater trust and confidence from Lily; in time, Mary persuades Lily to fire Abraham (Prayag Raaj), the household's loyal but proudly Indian cook, while she hides the fact that her sister Blossom (Neena Gupta) is nursing Lily's child. When not acting, Madhur Jaffrey is an acclaimed Indian chef and author, who has written a series of books on Indian cuisine; her daughter, Sakina Jaffrey, also appears in the film.


Madhur Jaffrey
as Cotton Mary
Sarah Badel
as Mrs. Evans
Gerson Da Cunha
as Dr. Correa
Joanna David
as Mrs Smythe
Neena Gupta
as Blossom
Prayag Raaj
as Abraham
Laura Lumley
as Theresa
Beena Manoj
as Nurse 2
as Mattie
Vinnie D'Souza
as Guitar Player
Captain Raju
as Inspector Ramiji Raj
as Tea Worker 1
Ashok Koshy
as Tea Worker 2
Gemma Jones
as Mrs. Davids
Luke Jones
as Charlie
Susan Malick
as Bunny Rogers
as Fisherman
Poornima Mohan
as Receptionist
Txuku Iriarte Solana
as Sylvie D'Costa
View All

Critic Reviews for Cotton Mary

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (17)

Cotton Mary, Ismail Merchant's second film as a director, puts some interestingly layered material into play, but he can't quite bring it together.

February 14, 2001 | Rating: 2/4

Engrossing from the first frame and written with admirable skill and insight by Alexandra Viets, Cotton Mary is a milestone for Merchant Ivory and a pleasure for the company's admirers.

February 7, 2001 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

Nothing is expressed directly; only the curtains move, blowing in the subcontinent wind.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: C

A heavy-handed melodrama whose title character is a symbol with a capital S.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: D+

Cotton Mary is uncommonly well-acted and beautifully shot on location in southern India, but it's not exactly riveting.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4

It's as though, in documenting cultural queerness afoot, [Merchant] skipped the institution and went straight for the loony bin.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

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