dir-scr Philip Goodhew
with Natasha Little, Ioan Gruffudd, Nick Moran, Imelda Staunton, Tom Wilkinson, Rachael Stirling, Daniel Brocklebank, Michael Bertenshaw, Helen Brampton, Judy Clifton, Diana Coupland, Elizabeth McKechnie
release UK 15.Jun.01
To follow-up the clever, disturbing Intimate Relations, writer-director Goodhew once again taps into a true-crime story. And while this film is nowhere near as involving, it's still a fascinating study of a notorious case. The story begins in 1913, with the lively Edith (Little) and her family celebrating Christmas. Despite her driving ambition, Edith has agreed to marry her sweetly nerdy boyfriend Percy (Moran), and at first they're very happy. He loves her strong spirit but can't do it himself. Then things start getting tense as his repressed ways begin to show, dodging the Great War and leaving Edith starved of energy and affection. Then she meets her little sister's (Stirling) new boyfriend Freddy (Gruffudd), a charming sailor who ignites a passion in Edith she had never felt before. But this is Edwardian England and divorce is not an option, so Freddy and Edith fantasise about killing Percy. Something they'd never do of course....
Goodhew captures the period and situations beautifully--the film has a lush visual style that draws us into the story, keeping things lively and building the sinister undertones. But it just isn't dark enough to be film noir, nor is it funny or witty enough to be a black comedy. So just what it is remains a bit of a mystery, because we're never really drawn in; the story doesn't build up any emotional resonance at all. Performances are also a problem. Little gives us a clear idea of who Edith is and what she wants out of life, but we never believe her as a real person, so we never feel for her situation. Other characters are equally vague and theatrical, with two exceptions: Moran is surprisingly good against type as the irritating yet rather touching Percy; and Gruffudd shines, layering on all kinds of intriguing layers as the charming, frustrated Freddy. When he's on the screen you get an idea what the entire film could have been like with just a bit more passion and feeling.