Ralph witnesses the disintegration of his parents' marriage through adultery and alcohol during the last gasp of the British Empire in Swaziland in 1969. Ralph finds his new step-mother is the only one who understands his inner turmoil.
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Set at the end of the 1960s, as Swaziland is about to receive independence from Great Britain, this movie follows the young Ralph Compton (Zac Fox), at eleven, through his parents' traumatic separation, till he's fourteen (played by Nicholas Hoult). It was written and directed by Richard E. Grant, and based on true events from Grant's childhood.
The movie supposedly starts in 1969 with the date appearing on the screen. Yet Swaziland received independence on 6 September 1968. See more »
Ralph Compton - 11 years old:
Why is Daddy's medal stupid?
Because all those idiots, dressed up like bloody vanilla ice creams, think that it's a suitable reward for enduring a lifetime of boredom out here in this... middle of bloody nowhere, that's why!
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Well-paced ensemble multi-layered but 'old-fashioned' movie
It was fairly brave of Richard E Grant to 'come out' as a director when acting would be such a secure option for him; particularly now as the role of director, especially of relatively small independent films such as this, involves all the hustling traditionally taken care of by the producer. Although he has been low-profile as an actor for some time, paying the rent by sticking to supporting roles ( lots of them, though), at the same time he has been fighting to get this semi-autobiographical saga up to the screen. A look at a disintegrating family could be set anywhere, but this is specific to Swaziland, where the collapse of the British Empire and the end of Deference mirror the uncertainties of young Ralph Compton's life. As a little boy (Zachary Fox) he finds himself in the back seat while his mother has it off with her husband's best friend; then as an adolescent rebel (Nicholas Hoult of 'About a Boy') he has to cope with mum's desertion and dad's alcoholism while discovering 'A Clockwork Orange' and experimenting with becoming a droog. There are so many concurrent plots that every time you think, Ah, so it's that kind of film, the layers shift again. Coming-of-age, end-of-empire, adults being stupid and cruel, the class system and white supremacy turning sclerotic; these elements weave and thrust against the African landscape and inbred British colonialism. This is the world that the kids will inherit. Celia Imrie and Fenella Woolgar are a joy to watch as they 'do' the snooty dames with such natural outraged dignity, but the surprise is to see the so-English Emily Watson make such a convincing low-class Manhattanite. The old ways are going out the window, serenaded as they go by the kind of lush, romantic soundtrack that also had had its time, and adds another taste of verisimilitude. Comparisons are useful, not odious, and it's fair to relate this kind of breathless well-paced ensemble production to Altman. One last touch of the Old Ways: it stops when it gets to the ... CLIFF HANLEY
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