Film Review: Viceroy’s House

 

Gurinder Chadha’s Viceroy’s House gives an overview of the complex topic of India’s partition in an entertaining and somewhat informative manner. However, some aspects of the film are stronger than others.

In 1947, Lord Mountbatten becomes the last Viceroy, tasked with handing India back to its people. The family live in a house with hundreds of Indian servants, whilst Mountbatten meets with politicians to decide the country’s future…

From the opening montage sequence of the Viceroy’s palatial home being prepared, it seems as if the Viceroy’s House is going to have an ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ feel. To a certain extent, it does. The story is told through two main strands; the Mountbatten family and the political wrangling of the final days of British rule, and the romance story of servants Jeet and Alia. As the film continues, certain elements take on more importance. 

Director and co-writer Gurinder Chadha’s film focuses on a look inside the negotiating rooms of the last Viceroy. The film does not shy away from political intrigue, nor does it negate the consequences of these negotiations on citizens. The characters are portrayed with light and shade. Chadha seeks to give depth to Mountbatten, suggesting that he shouldered to much of the blame for Partition. Instead, the film suggests a different antagonist later in proceedings. The film is something of a revisionist account.

Where the film falters is in its love story strand. This aspect of the film never really convinces. The need to include Indian characters in a film such as this is more than understandable. However, the relationship between Jeet and Aalia is not convincing, and lacks passion. When things become more serious later in the film, it feels like the film has not done enough to warrant a depth of feeling.

Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson give decent performances. The more memorable performances come from the supporting cast, however. Denzil Smith, Simon Callow, and the late Om Puri all standout. Costumes in the film are wonderful, and the large cast of extras give the film a sense of legitimacy. It is a shame that the use of superimposed newsreel distracts from this authenticity.

The epilogue of Viceroy’s House reveals the personal connection of Gurinder Chadha to the events depicted. It seems a shame that this did not feature in the film in place of the less-compelling love story.

Previews: Lady Macbeth trailer, Raw, More!

This week’s preview of coming attractions include the Lady Macbeth trailer, RawLogan, The Founder and more…

Lady Macbeth Trailer

This Lady Macbeth trailer is most striking. Based on a nineteenth-century novella, the film is about a young woman stifled by her loveless marriage to a much older man. Starring Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, and Paul Hilton, Lady Macbeth will be released in UK cinemas on 28th April 2017.

Raw Trailer

Raw is about a vegetarian student who is forced to eat meat during hazing rituals at veterinary college. So far so strange, but the coming-of-age film takes a darker turn. Julia Ducournau’s debut film was screened at last year’s BFI London Film Festival. Raw will hit UK screens on 7th April 2017.

Logan Poster

This new poster for the upcoming Wolverine movie Logan evokes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ever so slightly. With director James Mangold at the helm, this latest X-Men film sees a weathered Logan and a fading Professor Xavier trying to stop the destruction of the world. Starring Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, Logan bounds on to UK screens on 1st March 2017.

Viceroy’s House Clip

Here is a clip from the upcoming Viceroy’s House. I was thinking ‘this is a bit Downton in India’ then Hugh Bonneville popped up. Set during the final months of British rule in India, the film also stars Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, and Michael Gabon. Directed by Gurinder Chadha, Viceroy’s House will be released in UK cinemas on 3rd March 2017.

The Founder Trailer

You could probably sell most film’s on the charisma of Michael Keaton alone. The Founder, however, seems to offer more than this. Focusing on the salesman who turned McDonald’s into a international franchise, the film also stars Laura Dern and Nick Offerman. The Founder hits UK screens on 10th February 2017.

Film Review: It’s a Wonderful Afterlife

Director Gurinder Chadha said in a recent interview that she was sick of making romantic comedies. Perhaps not the best way to promote your new film; a romantic comedy.

It’s a Wonderful Afterlife tells the story of Roopi, a British-Asian woman, and her mother who is desperate to see her daughter married. So desperate in fact, that she has taken to murdering those who get in the way…

The story is very flimsy, based on a rather ridiculous premise. This would not matter if the film was consistently humorous. However, the film is weak in this area; although there are some funny gags, it lacks the frequency of comedy you would hope for from this genre.

Goldy Notay shines in It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, giving an earnest performance despite the material she has to work with. The one highlight of this film is in its casting of Notay as the leading lady; it is refreshing to see someone in this role who is not stereotypically attractive, as with most rom-coms. Thus, when she struggles to find a partner or laments her situation, the audience can believe her.

It is a pity that less effort was spent developing the other characters in the film. Sendhil Ramamurthy is attractive as the love interest, but there is not much else too him. One is never given too much of an impression as to how his character feels, or his motivations. Sally Hawkins is bright and entertaining as the best friend Linda, although her Carrie-inspired sequence goes on a lot longer than necessary, thus losing any initial amusement.

It is decidedly positive that Chadha has chosen to take a different direction. Whilst Bend It Like Beckham was a fun and engaging film; this most recent offering  is far less inspired. Coupled with this is Chadha’s inclination to offer a very similar, stereotypical depiction of Asians (particularly Asian parents) in almost all her films. By avoiding the romantic comedy genre, hopefully her next film will offer more originality.