“ Genre: Television / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Paul Seed / Actors: Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Joanna Lumley, John Light, Joanna Scanlan ... / DVD released 2007-05-21 at ITV Studios Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL „
RELEASED: 1998, Cert.15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 104 mins
DIRECTOR: Paul Seed
PRODUCER: Joanne Willett
SCREENPLAY: Andrew Davies
MUSIC: Jim Parker
Albert Finney as Reggie Conyngham-Jervis
Tom Courtenay as Roy Southgate
Joanna Lumley as Liz Franks
FILM ONLY REVIEW
A Rather English Marriage begins in 1984, when Ex-RAF squadron leader Reggie Conyngham-Jervis and ex-milkman Roy Southgate get talking to one another whilst visiting their terminally ill wives in hospital....coincidentally, both wives die on the same day as one another. At first, Reggie treats Roy with disdain, but in his own way is rather touched when Roy turns up at his wife's funeral, especially after having also just lost his own. Reggie feels obliged to return the compliments, gracing Roy's late wife's funeral with his presence.
On the recommendation of social services bereavement counsellors, Roy strangely ends up living in Reggie's house, acting almost as his cook, bottle-washer and general servant. Although from very different backgrounds, both men form an odd kind of not friendship exactly, but mutual support system with one another.
Bumptious and blustering on the surface, upper-class twit Reggie misses his wife desperately, and as he needs a woman in his life, he begins a relationship with Liz Franks, a beautiful younger woman who runs a classy Chelsea boutique, yet is having financial problems.
Meanwhile, the seemingly quiet and obedient Roy carries out his duties inside of Reggie's home with little complaint, occasionally borrowing Reggie's car in order to visit his son who is in prison. Both men are in well-hidden emotional pain over the loss of their respective wives, the sharpness of their memories biting hardest when each of them are alone....also, both men harbour secret regrets about their respective pasts.
Almost instantly, I was drawn into this sometimes amusing, sometimes gently powerful film which focuses on an odd pairing between two widowed men, who hail from different sides of the track. I initially found Reggie to be quite an obnoxious individual, but before long began to see a gentler, softer side to his bumptious, blustering, gung-ho disposition. I oscillated between wanting to strangle him and finding him endearingly amusing.
As for Roy, although he at first comes across as a bit of a colourless wimp, he is the calmer, more stable of the two men and there is a lot more to him than immediately meets the eye.
The acting in A Rather English Marriage is truly spellbinding, and I can honestly say that legends Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay both surpassed even their own brilliance, as they beautifully not only bounced off of one another, but cohered and complemented each other in a way that I have only ever seen achieved by Dustin Hoffman and John Voigt in the 1968 film Midnight Cowboy.
Joanna Lumley, although very much herself in her role as the charming Liz Franks, was absolutely perfect for the part...friendly, affectionate, glamorous....yet, perhaps needing something from Reggie that he ultimately and for various reasons is unable to give (that is a watch the film to find out more issue).
The backbone of the film though, is the complete contrast between the two main male characters, and the unusual (perhaps a little unconvincing, but nonetheless superb) way in which they are sort of thrown together. Roy seems like a downtrodden, working class, perhaps even rather grey character, but he is more than adept at coping with Reggie's sometimes insensitively outspoken way of dealing with the world around him, and he (Roy) is alert to and can see Reggie's softer side - a side which I wouldn't call gentle exactly, but in his more reflective moments, he does show an unexpectedly tender streak in his character.
A Rather English Marriage is a very easy film to watch, with a clear dialogue which the three main cast members more than do justice to. The only thing I wasn't too keen on was the music, which is light orchestral in nature, but at times comes across far too loudly, even drowning out some of what the actors are saying, especially during the earlier part of the film. However, such is a negligible fly in an otherwise perfect pot of ointment.
I am so glad I watched A Rather English Marriage, and can't believe how on earth I managed to miss it when it was televised in the 1990s (it is a film which was originally made for television). There isn't much which can dig deeply into my sensitivities and actually make me feel something solid, but this film certainly and very gracefully managed to hit my spot, loud, clear and beautifully. Although I now know how it all pans out, this is something I have earmarked to watch again, and hopefully again and again and again! Only a very small handful of films manage to achieve that watchability level for me, and I can honestly say this is one of the very best dramas I have ever seen. It is poignant, amusing, interesting, and above all, acted by Courtenay and Finney with a brilliance that would be impossible for even the best to even match, let alone surpass.
Even though there is a mood of poignancy present, I can promise all of you out there who, like me, have little time or patience with insincere and overblown sentimental gush/mush, that A Rather English Marriage is a highly respectable, intelligent, stunningly well-acted piece of utter brilliance, with the more emotional aspects being presented with faultless good taste.
My only recommendation to those who didn't get to see it on TV, is....dash out and buy a copy right now, then watch it! It is one piece of truly amazing British drama.
At the time of writing, A Rather English Marriage can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £5.14 to £16.99
Used: only one copy currently available @ £16.99
Collectible: only one copy currently available @ £5.99 (appears to be used)
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~