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A modern television classic set in the Eighties, A Rather English Marriage
tells the story of two recently widowed men; a brash World War Two squadron
leader (Albert Finney) and a retired milkman (Tom Courtenay) who form an
unlikely alliance as they come to terms with their bereavements.
The two men miss their wives for totally different reasons, Roy Southgate (Courtenay) is a loyal, devoted husband who spends hours with his wife when visiting her at hospital. Reggie Conyngham-Jervis (Finney) is a philanderer who relies on his wife mainly for her cooking and cleaning skills and sees his hospital visits as time that could be better spent in the pub.
When a social worker sees that each man could be the solution to the other's problems, these two characters (complete opposites plagued by personal problems they try to keep hidden) who were hospital waiting room acquaintances are now brought together full time.
This is the sort of charming, well-written television drama that nobody seems to want to make anymore, the two leads forming an even more effective partnership than they did in The Dresser fifteen years earlier where Finney stole the show.
Courtenay is superbly understated, Finney is more powerful and boisterous and probably the more versatile actor. Their contrasting styles complement each other perfectly.
Although this is mainly a double-act, Joanna Lumley also excels as the gold-digger who has her eye on Reggie's wallet.
However this drama belongs equally to Finney and Courtenay. The final scene with these two grand old men of film and theatre dancing to Glenn Miller's 'Moonlight Serenade' will surely prove to be one of the most lasting and endearing moments in British television.
The pairing of Courtenay and Finney,whose contrasting styles combine so
together,were brilliant in The Dresser,which makes their pairing in this
drama so very welcome.They play contrasting men widowed on the same day and
paired together by social services.Finney is a womanising ex=Battle of
Britain pilot whose wife came from wealthy stock while Courteney is a
milkman.Courteney possesses all the requisite domestic skills while Finney
would struggle to boil water without a recipe book. Against all odds and
helped by Finney's habit of assuming command they rub along well together
until the arrival of Joanna Lumley a gold-digger who sets her sights on
Beautifully written and impeccably played character study.It illustrates that dumbing down ,while having achieved epidemic proportions on UK television,has not yet conquered all bastions of the box.
What a gem! Courtenay and Finney soar in this quiet story about two
widowers whom circumstances bring them together as house-mates. Finney
is a blustery ex-air force's squadron leader with some money, Courtenay
a small, quiet blue-collar worker. This movie is all about their
developing relationship and the two of them display their considerable
acting skills. The small story is a wonderful device to have the two of
them find out how to live with one another and, ultimately, how to
If you love fine acting and gentle stories, you must try this. It's one of the few that I bought for my collection.
A really wonderful drama. A good plot, elevated hugely by two perfect performances from Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney. They are truly superb as Southgate (working-class) and Reggie ("The Squadron Leader"-staunchly upper-class), two widowers who strike an unlikely friendship to come to terms with life again. Finney and Courtenay truly show exactly what brilliant acting is, and this is comfortably the best original single drama in 1998.
Finney & Courtenay are teamed again in this tale of two widowers who
are drawn together by a well meaning social services worker.
Finney seems at first coolly detached from his loss, while Courtenay is the far more visibly shaken of the two. Finney is essentially left with a lifetime interest in his home and a small annual stipend by his late wife. Courtenay needs companionship. The social worker brings them together in a marriage of convenience.
Finney assumes the role of the master of the house and Courtenay essentially the man servant.For those who enjoyed the pair in 1984's The Dresser, Courtenay calling Finney "Sir" will bring a smile to your face.
As the plot evolves, we see Finney deteriorating while Courtenay steps up to the plate to assume the more dominant role. Both are forced to face tragedy again during their time together and learn to adapt.
The film deals with how people deal with grief, or choose not, and in the end, how we all must make that choice.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I caught this on our British Columbia Learning Channel (TLC) and what a gem it is. I have yet to see Finney in a bad movie and that is why I tuned in. Am I glad I did. This is a gem, never a false tone, the nuances, it is all there. It is so delicately handled, after all it touches on some difficult aspects of our human journey. The contrast between the two men is enormous but they overcome their difficulties in later years to form a strong friendship. When the movie ends, we remain with hope, hope for the human condition. I highly recommend it, turn down the lights and allow this film to seep into you. Savour each element, especially the "Moonlight Serenade" by Glenn Miller at the end, and compare it to the previous piece: Pennsylvannia 6000, also by Glenn Miller, which is quite different. But then we know why. Enjoy, you are in for a rare treat.
I was tired and did not expect to stay with this movie, but thought I'd see how it began. The story and the absolutely wonderful performances by Finney and Courtenay kept me absorbed in it till it was all over. This quiet movie was, unexpectedly, to be one of my all-time favorites.
Albert Finny and his co lead are superb,acting at its best!!!! A story and performance to remember. I think it fits the over 50-55 year old set best. Just wonderful entertainment with brilliant script. I will see it again...and again Dr G Catapano
This reviewer considers 'A Rather English Marriage' one of the finest
dramas she's ever watched, British or otherwise. So good in fact, that
one does forget that it was made for TV.
'A Rather English Marriage' is beautifully shot and is a lovely-looking drama in general. It's sensitively directed by Paul Seed, and hauntingly scored with a nigh-on ideal use of Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade" at the drama's end.
Scripting is thought-provoking, gently funny and heart-wrenchingly poignant. The story is told with great sensitivity, with the parts that could easily have been contrived being handled gracefully and believably, and really touched me on an emotional level. The ending is one classic example of an ending that one can see it as little as once and never forget it, that's how effective an ending it is. It is paced very securely, while never hurting the gentle atmosphere or adopting the book's (of which it is a very faithful adaptation of apart from the ending) occasional tendency to plod.
The characters in 'A Rather English Marriage' are very well-written and easy to engage with. All serve a point to the story and they are interesting. Liz could easily have been annoying and one-dimensional considering her gold-digging nature, but 'A Rather English Marriage' successfully gives the character a good deal of heart. It is Reggie and Roy's relationship that holds 'A Rather English Marriage' together, and it is beautifully written and even more beautifully acted, the contrasting personalities of the two complementing each other perfectly.
You can't go wrong with the acting either, which is superb across the board. Especially Tom Courtenay at his understated best, while Albert Finney in the more broadly written role is a splendid contrast, without falling into ham or caricature. Joanna Lumley gives charming support, and the rest of the acting is without fault.
In conclusion, an unforgettably brilliant British drama. 10/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Could not have enjoyed this movie more. Albert Finney..simply the best, but also brilliantly supported by Lumley and Courtenay. What a combination and what interpretations by these fantastic actors. Talk about understated, the scene where the "post stroke" Squadron Leader says he knew Liz didn't love him, but his love for her was all that mattered to him, and upon that basis he was willing to marry her, took about 20 seconds, but boy did it carry some weight. To all concerned..Well Done.If you have enjoyed this movie I recommend you see any Albert Finney film because I've never known him to be anything less than brilliant
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