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A doctor's sophisticated wife joins him at his remote Asian practice to try and patch up their marriage. Increasingly violent friction between local rubber plantation workers and the authorities force both parties to make decisions. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is an intelligent film about an innocent -- perhaps naive -- man and village community caught up on the edge of national turmoil, and it avoids both obvious political cliché and easy answers. Into its widening canvas, from individual to village to province to ultimate future of a nation, it also weaves a tentative attempt at reconciliation between the eponymous English doctor and his ambitious ex-social butterfly of a wife: both have an alternative romance mutely on offer, although nothing is ever explicitly stated, and the broken marriage is on shaky ground at best.
So far so good -- personal and political combine, as they have done since 'Gone with the Wind', though with the political for once taking the leading role. There are beautiful location shots, some very effective action sequences, especially in the crowd scenes, good use of background music, skilfully understated dialogue that avoids the need for open exposition, and an unexpected humanity and depth in the treatment of all the characters. Ultimately, however, I found it curiously unsatisfying as a drama: I have a depressing suspicion that for all their merits, the equivocal realism and avoidance of the emotional broad brush seen here perhaps deprive the film of some of the force of pure entertainment.
We are enlisted in the conflict, drawn to take sides, tossed pawn-like in unsuspected undercurrents and then cast out, bruised and numb, to effectively wash our hands of the whole affair. It reflects the genuine messiness of real life, but it's not catharsis; this has more of a documentary feel. It's a well-made film, and held me riveted while it ran, but after the end credits I was somehow left feeling 'Is that it?'
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