Described by Phil Purser as "a curious, haunting, unclassifiable film" Poppyland is one of those television filsm which looks nothing like a television film. In it's camerawork, scale, acting and dialogue, it reminds one of A Month In The Country or The Dead. Clement Scott, 1980s theatre critic, played to perfection by Alan Howard, travels to Norfolk to write, and is bewitched by the little unspoilt village he finds and the innocent delights of the inn he stays at, attended to by Louie (a delicate Phoebe Nicholls in the performance of her career). But inevitably, as Scott writes about the place, it becomes a major tourist attraction and he fears that both Poppyland and Louie will lose their untouched innocence. Swinburne (an outrageously camp portrait of the poet) and an effete actor (the irreplaceable Jonathan Hyde) are among those who invade Poppyland and steal Scott's thunder and Louie's attentions. It is a maginificent telling of a simple story. "This was soon become Bungalowland" remarks Scott at one point. The direction by Shakespeare In Love's John Madden is spot on, and very well restrained. There is absolutely no sexual relationship between Louie and Clement Scott and there doesn't need to be. And the finest moment in the film is surely Scott's explosion at his wife (Isla Blair) as he corrects her. "No. Louie is not from Poppyland. She is Poppyland..." The ending is hypnotic too. A television film of modest ambition but olympian achievement.
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