Simply Perfect. It's perfection to a "tea" (high tea at four). It's so comfortable and relaxing to watch a Mamet film even when it's a story of intrigue and suspense.
Without stress of anticipation or worrying how the film might turn out, I entered the theater already satisfied -- I am seeing a Mamet film (a relieve from the Hollywood blockbusters!) I totally trusted the writer/director, serenely sat there knowing I will have a pleasant film experience, and immensely enjoyable it truly was!
Every character is well acted by a perfect cast! Nigel Hawthorne as the senior Winslow, Arthur, head of the family. Gemma Jones as the matron of the house, Mrs. Winslow, Grace. Rebecca Pidgeon (Catherine "Kate" Winslow the daughter who works for her cause in women suffrage) flawlessly matches Jeremy Northam (Sir Robert Morton the renowned lawyer who has his influence on the House of Commons). What a fine pair opposite each other. Northam is impeccable and as handsome as he is. Pidgeon is no less brilliant and shines reflectively. There are the other two sons in the Winslow family: the key role of the Winslow boy in question, Ronnie, played by Guy Edwards, and the older son Dickie played by Rebecca's brother Matthew Pidgeon. Also Sarah Flind as the twenty-four years faithful family servant Violet, Colin Stinton as cousin Desmond and Aden Gillett as fiancé John (the two men who keenly pursue Kate) just about do the job for this faultlessly put together story on film.
Mamet's screenplay once again superbly presented. Every line, every word in every scene came across so befitting for the moment -- such timing and delivery. This is a politically conscious film: subjects include family unit value, honor and honesty, class structure, influence of a well-known lawyer, along with father and son relationship, father and daughter, husband and wife, and romantic notions being tossed about around Kate -- all integrally paced yet seemingly choreographed together so effortlessly.
Mind you the case is not the only central interest, the tension (and subtle tender friendship) between Kate Winslow and Sir Robert Morton is fascinating to watch, as they grow to observe each other closely and exchange banters. Kate, with her seemingly restrained manners, is holding back her feelings, while Sir Robert is opening up steadily and showing (obvious to us viewers) interest in getting to talk to Kate more often than he would a man of his stature.
For me, there are four key scenes of exceptional energy, be it in high or low-key delivery. 1) Arthur Winslow (Nigel Hawthorne) talking initially with Ronnie (Guy Edwards). 2) When Kate (Rebecca Pidgeon) first entered Sir Robert's office, our very first glimpse of Sir Robert (Jeremy Northam) and his initial reaction. 3) Sir Robert interrogating Ronnie in his office. 4) The last verbal exchange between Pidgeon and Northam, as Kate and Sir Robert bid goodbye -- miss not a single word of this as you will be satisfied (probably more music to a woman's ears when Northam speaks!)
Music score by Alaric Jans complements the film effectively, so do the costume design by Consolata Boyle and photography by Benoit Delhomme. All in all, I repeat, a perfectly satisfying and enjoyable film. Bravo to Mamet, once again.
Other gems (screenplay-director) by Mamet besides "The Spanish Prisoner" 1998, are his first film "House of Games" 1987 and "Things Change" 1988. They both have the unique energy of Joe Mantegna, and fascinating strong lead performances from Lindsay Crouse in the former and Don Ameche in the latter -- perfect casting they were, with music score both by Alaric Jans. If you appreciate well written dialog and plot, miss these not.