Complete A-Z list

Glorious 39


Stars: Romola Garai, Bill Nighy, Jeremy Northam, Jenny Agutter, Juno Temple, Julie Christie, Eddie Redmayne, Christopher Lee, Hugh Bonneville, David Tennant, Charlie Cox

Director: Stephen Poliakoff

There are so many implausibilities in Poliakoff's long film, set in 1939, it's difficult to know where to start - not at the end, certainly, for that would giving away some of the plot's secrets.

It's before World War two, and a glorious summer for the aristocratic and influential Keyes family. Adopted oldest daughter Anne (Garai, with a Veronica Lake hairdo rather ahead of its time), called Glorious for some reason by her brother (Redmayne), and in love with diplomat Lawrence (Cox), is supremely happy in the bosom of her family, headed by casually charming dad (Nighy) and flower-tending mum (Agutter).

But war looms and gradually Anne finds herself in the midst of a nest of appeasers and Nazi sympathisers. Family friend Hector (Tennant), a firebrand MP in favour of fighting Hitler, is found dead; soon after, Anne discovers gramophone records (really?) of meetings involving her brother, the sinister Balcombe (Northam) and others, discussing how opponents of their ideas should be 'dealt with'.

Much of the remainder of the film concerns Anne's desperate attempts to distinguish between friend and foe. At times, it seems there must be more Fifth Columnists in Norfolk than patriots. And how does 'good guy' Lawrence choose a far-flung veterinary surgery for an assignation with Anne that proves to be crawling with the enemy?

Despite great period settings and colour photography (by Danny Cohen), the film too frequently teeters on the edge of foolishness. When Garai expresses shock that Tennant has 'shot himself', Nighy (way below his best form) chides 'Well, he was excitable.'

Best of the cast is Northam as the saturnine Balcombe, though film buffs should stay vigilant for the actress playing an elderly lady at the end: it's former Rank star Muriel Pavlow in her first cinema film appearance for 48 years.

The 12A certificate is, to say the least, a little fortuitous.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Momentum. Colour by deluxe.
129 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 15 Nov 2009