×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Rather English Marriage

A tony cast, led by Albert Finney on overdrive, chews up the scenery to entertaining --- and finally moving --- effect in the true-Brit comedy of manners "A Rather English Marriage."

With:
Reggie Cunningham-Jarvis ..... Albert Finney Roy Southgate ..... Tom Courtenay Lizzie Franks ..... Joanna Lumley Younger Reggie ..... John Light Younger Mary ..... Katie Carr Younger Roy ..... Iain Jones Younger Grace ..... Caroline Carver Mary ..... Ursula Howells Adjoa Andoh ..... Mandy Hope Vivian ..... Jeremy Clyde Sabrina ..... Emily Morgan

A tony cast, led by Albert Finney on overdrive, chews up the scenery to entertaining — and finally moving — effect in the true-Brit comedy of manners “A Rather English Marriage.” Warmly received by local auds at its London fest showings, this delightfully played study of two crusty old widowers who end up cohabiting in “Odd Couple” style will amuse connoisseurs of well-turned dialogue, English social foibles and effortless screen chemistry. On the business side, pic has “BBC” and “small screen” written all over it.

Reggie (Finney), a retired RAF squadron leader, and Roy (Tom Courtenay), a former milkman, meet when their respective wives expire at the same hospital in a country town. Both are unequipped to handle a solitary existence, though for different reasons: Roy, a homebody who was devoted to his spouse, lacks somebody to look after, and Reggie, a philandering layabout, couldn’t boil an egg if he sat on it. A social worker suggests that Roy move into Reggie’s capacious manse.

From the outset, the relationship is founded on traditional, mutually understood conventions. Reggie calls Roy by his surname, Southgate, as if he’s a chief butler, and Roy calls Reggie simply Squadron Leader. When he’s not being gently chided for using working-class vocabulary (“supper” instead of “dinner”), Roy is allowed to use Reggie’s car to visit his son, a ne’er-do-well in jail. Roy’s own trips to the big city are limited to occasional dalliances with Sabrina (Emily Morgan, choice) at a high-class brothel.

Into Reggie’s life suddenly wafts the sniffy Lizzie (Joanna Lumley), a gold digger who reckons the stiff-upper-lipped old soak could be the answer to her failing boutique business. Little does she realize that, fiscally, Reggie isn’t all he seems.

Though the initial departure point of the comedy — skillfully adapted by veteran Andrew Davies from Angela Carter’s novel — is a kind of British version of the Neil Simon classic, with Courtenay in the Jack Lemmon role and Finney in Walter Matthau’s, pic gains a true emotional undercurrent of its own with the entrance of Lumley and the gradual stripping down of Finney’s character to reveal the real man beneath. Lumley more than holds her own against the two male thesps (previously together over a decade ago in “The Dresser,” and more recently on the London stage in “Art”), whose natural chemistry is one of the movie’s highlights, with particularly generous playing from Courtenay as the effective straight man.

TV helmer Paul Seed directs smoothly, though in traditional small-screen style, and Jim Parker’s score is a major assist in both tone and atmosphere. Unfortunately, color in print caught is rather wan in the 16mm blowup, and plain muddy in some interiors.

Popular on Variety

A Rather English Marriage

(COMEDY-DRAMA -- BRITISH)

Production: A Wall to Wall Television production, for the BBC. Produced by Jo Willett. Executive producers, Alex Graham, David M. Thompson. Directed by Paul Seed. Screenplay, Andrew Davies, from the novel by Angela Carter.

Crew: Camera (color), Gavin Finney; editor, Dave King; music, Jim Parker; production designer, Michael Pickwoad; art director, Henry Harris; costume designer, Frances Tempest; sound, Jim Greenhorn; assistant director, Cordelia Hardy. Reviewed at London Film Festival, Nov. 18, 1998. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: Reggie Cunningham-Jarvis ..... Albert Finney Roy Southgate ..... Tom Courtenay Lizzie Franks ..... Joanna Lumley Younger Reggie ..... John Light Younger Mary ..... Katie Carr Younger Roy ..... Iain Jones Younger Grace ..... Caroline Carver Mary ..... Ursula Howells Adjoa Andoh ..... Mandy Hope Vivian ..... Jeremy Clyde Sabrina ..... Emily Morgan

More Film

  • Bruce Springsteen arrives for the New

    Bruce Springsteen Returns to NJ Hometown for Surprise 'Western Stars' Introduction

    Bruce Springsteen returned to his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey to offer a surprise introduction to the first public multiplex viewing of his concert/documentary film, “Western Stars.” Dressed simply in a brown jacket, Springsteen took a moment to say a few words at the AMC Freehold 14 movie theater on Saturday night. “We knew we [...]

  • Backstage in Puglia del film SPACCAPIETRE:

    'Gomorrah' Star Salvatore Esposito Set For De Serio Twins' 'The Stonebreaker'

    Salvatore Esposito, the Italian star who plays young mob boss Genny Savastano in Italy’s hit TV series “Gomorrah,” will soon be hitting the big screen toplining upcoming drama “The Stonebreaker” by twin directorial duo Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio, who are known internationally for “Seven Acts of Mercy.” The De Serio twins are now in post on “Stonebreaker” [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    Box Office: 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Tops 'Joker,' 'Zombieland'

    “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is on track to give Disney another first place finish after scoring $12.5 million in Friday’s domestic ticket sales. If estimates hold, the Angelina Jolie-led film should finish the weekend with about $38 million — well below earlier forecasts but enough to top holdover “Joker” and fellow newcomer “Zombieland: Double Tap.” [...]

  • Maelle Arnaud

    Lumière Chief Programmer Maelle Arnaud: 'Film History Doesn't Have Parity'

    LYON, France   — As the Lumière Institute’s head programmer since 2001, Maelle Arnaud helped launched the Lumière Festival in 2009 and has watched it grow in international esteem over the decade that followed. This year, the festival ran 190 films across 424 screenings in theaters all over town. The festival will come to a [...]

  • Girl with Green Eyes

    Talking Pictures TV: Bringing the Past Back to Life in the U.K.

    LYON, France – Since its launch in 2015, Talking Pictures TV has become the fastest-growing independent channel in the U.K. with a growing library of British film and TV titles that span five decades, according to founder Noel Cronin. Noel Cronin attended the Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) in Lyon, France, where he [...]

  • Wings of Desire

    German Heritage Sector Applauds Increased Digitization, Preservation Funding

    LYON, France  — Germany’s film heritage sector is celebrating a new federal and state-funded initiative launching in January that will provide €10 million ($11.15 million) a year towards the digitization and preservation of feature films. Rainer Rother, the artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek, outlined the plan at a panel discussion at the Lumière Festival’s [...]

  • 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    Film Review: 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    In one of the intermittent revealing moments in “QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight,” a documentary about the films of Quentin Tarantino that’s like a familiar but tasty sundae for Quentin fans, we see Tarantino on the set of “Pulp Fiction,” shooting the iconic dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. As John Travolta and Uma [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content