Director: Eva Husson
Stars: Odessa Young, Josh O'Connor, Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, Olivia Colman, Colin Firth
This adaptation of the Graham Swift novel tries hard but is never quite able to break the bonds of staid middlebrow period piece. It opens in 1920s Henley with Jane (Young) working for the Nivens, an upper-class couple devastated by the loss of both of their sons in the First World War. The kind and self-effacing Mr Niven (Firth) attempts to put on a brave face at social gatherings, but his wife (Colman) is almost catatonically unresponsive with grief, only occasionally snapping out of it to berate her husband. Jane is having an affair with Paul (O’Connor), the well-to-do son of the neighbouring Sheringhams, although he is betrothed to someone else. The story intermittently skips forward to the 50s where Jane is an established writer married to Donald (Dìrísù) a celebrated philosopher and struggling with the inspiration for her new novel, causing her to hark back for material.
Despite the self-consciously sensuous sun-dappled photography and frank sexuality the film remains anchored in the middlebrow. Leads Young and O’Connor fail to generate any chemistry despite the numerous nude scenes, while Firth and Colman feel underused, maybe fortunate in the former’s case as Firth’s character is worryingly reminiscent of ineffectual toff Ralph from the Fast Show’s Ted and Ralf sketches.David Willoughby
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