Brief Takes on British Movies #BriFri #FilmReview
Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I enjoyed learning about the obscure story behind the reason that there’s a mastodon from Missouri in London’s Natural History Museum. Tina reviewed Foster by Claire Keegan on Goodreads, a story about a girl in a foster family in Ireland.
I watched more movies in the last few months than I had time to write about — especially last month when I was busy participating in National Novel Writing Month. I successfully wrote a very bad draft of a 50,000-word novel. Next up is to write a slightly better and longer draft.
So, here are a bunch of films that I think you might like for their British and Irish stories.
Downton Abbey: The New Era (2022). A delight for Downton Abbey fans but probably not understandable to others — although fans of the late 1920s will get a kick out of the costumes and music. Fortunately, there are enough Downton Abbey fans to keep this franchise going as long as the writers and actors are willing to keep producing them for us. According to an article in Town and Country Magazine, there are rumors of a third film. (streaming on Amazon Prime)
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022): A fun Cinderella story where Cinderella is her own fairy godmother and doesn’t need to be rescued by a prince. I learned a lot about how haute couture works or, at least, how it worked in 1957. It’s not obvious that this would work well as a date movie, but we both enjoyed the humor and charm. Obviously, a lot of this movie is set in Paris, but Mrs. Harris is a working-class British person from start to finish and her adventure begins in London. (DVD from Netflix)
Supernova (2020): Beautiful scenery (the Lake District in England) but a terribly sad story. We enjoyed the performances of Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci. (DVD from Netflix)
Father Christmas is Back (2021): The traditional story of the mum who wants to create the perfect Christmas in her Yorkshire manor house but refuses to take into account her very imperfect family — all played for broad comedy by a cast that includes John Cleese and Kelsey Grammer. (streaming on Netflix)
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947): The only things British about this movie are the script and Rex Harrison, but I suppose that’s enough to count. Hollywood magic brings us a seaside cottage overlooking the English Channel and a few streets and buildings in London. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a fun black & white classic for date night. We decided that we’d seen it decades before, long before we met, but at the same time, when Channel 11 showed it as their Saturday afternoon classic movie. That might be as much fantasy as The Ghost but thinking of ourselves as doing the same thing at the same time when we were young, added to the romance for us. (DVD from Netflix)
Murder by Decree (1979): This film gives the fictional Sherlock Holmes the most famous murder case in British history, Jack the Ripper. There are fun moments, playing on the tropes of two classic stories. The sound was bad, so we found it difficult to hear and there were no subtitles to help. I looked at some of the reviews and I think that our confusion may have been as much due to the script as to our inability to hear the dialogue. Christopher Plummer plays Holmes without an addiction and with a wicked sense of humor. James Mason gives us a Watson with scientific, medical, and military skills that contribute to their enterprise. We also enjoyed spotting Donald Sutherland and John Gielgud. (DVD from Netflix)
All is True (2018): A story about William Shakespeare and his family that reminded me a lot of Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. there are so few facts about the historical characters that it’s fun to imagine their lives. We particularly enjoyed Judi Dench as Anne Hathaway and Ian McKellen as the Earl of Southampton. (DVD from Netflix)
The Outfit (2022): This movie is set in Chicago during the era of gangsters, but I’m counting it because it centers around an English tailor (or cutter, as he prefers to be called) who was trained on Savile Row. As it turns out, it was filmed in London and some of the actors playing Americans are actually British (a flip of films like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir). We were completely intrigued because the film invited us to guess what was really going on — and then continually proved us wrong. (DVD from Netflix)
Enola Holmes 2 (2022): I enjoyed this sequel to Enola Holmes, featuring a more mature main character and improving relationships with her brother, Sherlock, and the young man that she rescued in the earlier film. The story builds on a real event that I appreciated learning about — the Matchgirls’ Strike. The film didn’t portray the history particularly accurately, but it made me curious enough to learn about it myself. (streaming on Netflix)
The Wonder (2022): A powerful, somewhat grim, film set in 1862 Ireland. Florence Pugh (Little Women) stars as a nurse who served in the Crimean War. The film is based on a book of the same name by Emma Donoghue who also wrote Room. (streaming on Netflix)
Lassie Come Home (1943): I’d forgotten (or never knew) that the original story of Lassie was set in Yorkshire and Scotland. My familiarity with Lassie came from the American TV series. This was filmed in the US, but mostly featured a British cast. Eleven-year-old Elizabeth Taylor was a notable exception. We enjoyed this as a feel-good movie on Thanksgiving night, but probably won’t make it a new tradition. A more traditional Thanksgiving night movie is Miracle on 34th Street. Before Edmund Gwenn played Kris Kringle in that 1947 movie, he played a tinker in Lassie Come Home. (DVD from library)
The Duke (2020): Based on a true story, Jim Broadbent plays an ordinary man from Newcastle who stole the portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in 1961 as a protest against television license fees. We enjoyed the humor in the story, the performance of Helen Mirren as the long-suffering wife, and the amused detachment of the barrister played by Matthew Goode. (DVD from Netflix)
What have you watched recently that you enjoyed?
I definitely want Supernova and I’m glad you mentioned The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I loved the tv series with Hope Lange and will look for this British classic.
I rbought you a book about a bookshop, a troubled past and it’s set in York England.
Having read your post I watched The Duke last night. Most enjoyable and very well acted. Helen Mirren in quite a different role than normal. I didn’t know of the incident. The film glossed over that he held on to the painting for 4 years.