An Uncommonly Intelligent Work, Replete With Superior Moments.
Produced for the BBC, this fascinating film based upon the Prix Italia screenplay of Simon Gray offers a great deal to enjoy, thanks essentially to seamless control of the narrative, along with correctly sustained tension, by director Christopher Morahan. When James Westgate (Bob Peck), a rather restrained Oxford academic, is introduced to the spouse of newly hired faculty member Derek (Barry Foster), James recognizes her as the close companion of his childhood, Penelope or "Patch" (Miranda Richardson), for whom he holds a long nurtured and private adoration, as the script artfully depicts with careful detailing. As children, Patch led and the once plump James, or "Porker", had followed, often into situations that involved a degree of risk and, upon renewal of their relationship, Westgate discovers that he is glad to resume their former order, albeit of a yet more lively nature. For it seems that a local archaeologist, one Pilkington, often taken to seeking after artifacts within woods upon the property of Derek and Penny, has disappeared, and Patch and Porker once again pool their efforts, resulting in anxious interludes that are combined into dramatic coherence by director Morahan. The cleverly constructed script by Gray is largely responsible for the disparate categorical components included within the film, among which are humour, whimsy, romance, satire, drama and adventure, in addition to some tangibly suspenseful sequences. One can not but be pleased with the gripping performances by Richardson, whose entire physical being seems to be channeled into her role, and by Peck, whose uniquely diffident persona provides a mirror for Gray's finesse, in addition to polished turns from supporting players Foster and Gary Waldhorn as a close friend of the other three. Schubert's Quintet in A, op. 114. "Trout", a significant factor in the storyline of a film that is shot in and about Oxford, is played well by Oxford based musicians and beautifully balanced and integrated during the post-production process, and there is also valuable understated but illustrative additional scoring from Stephen Oliver, while the camera-work of cinematographer Stephen Dunn is ably employed to induce the buffet of moods. After repeated viewings, it becomes clear that this complex item is both rich and strange while, to complete the analogy, a climactic scene is echoic of the Jacobean.
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