A totally cheeky English style comedy from director Stephen Frears is something that should make plenty of people sit up and take notice. It pokes fun at the literary world, bucolic countryside living and human beings in general. Based on a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds that itself was loosely based on Thomas Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd", the film is full of pastoral countrysides, farmers, temptress maidens, rock stars, meddling teenage girls, and philanderers. It is a mix that means fun for viewers.
After having left her small town existence to become a high profile journalist in the big city, Tamara Drewe (Gemma Atherton – The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) returns to the town she was brought up in because her childhood home is going up for sale after the death of her mother. The house needs some renovations before it can be sold, so Tamara hires her ex Andy to do the work. She is also there to interview a famous rock drummer and begin writing a novel.
Tamara was once the ugly duckling of the town with her dowdy ways and huge nose, but after moving to the city, updating her wardrobe and undergoing a nose job, she is now quite a looker. Her return to the sleepy largely farming town seems to ignite the hormones of every man living there.
Her old boyfriend and local handyman, Andy (Luke Evans – Robin Hood – 2010, Clash of the Titans – 2010), renews his interest in her. The well-known author and philanderer, Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam – V For Vendetta, The Queen), makes his intentions towards Tamara obvious. But Tamara is a spoken for woman as she has accepted the marriage proposal of rock star/drummer Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper – Mamma Mia!, The History Boys) much to the dismay of the teenager Jody (Jessica Barden – from television's Coronation Street), Ben's biggest fan.
Jody does everything she can to sabotage Ben and Tamara's relationship. She is successful and this leads to Tamara looking for solace in Andy's arms, but he is otherwise occupied, so she turns to Nicholas. This is an unfortunate choice as their rendez-vous is photographed and the pictures are sent to Nicholas's wife, Beth (Tamsin Greig – Shaun of the Dead). Beth has her own secret admirer, Glen (Bill Camp – Public Enemies, Rounders) – an American writer, who confronts Nicholas. This confrontation leads to a stampede of cattle that changes everything for everyone.
Affairs of the heart in the beautiful English countryside. What could be more romantic? Well, there really is nothing romantic about this film, but there are plenty of laughs. The very light side of finding a suitable match for yourself is poked fun at. The humour is very English in that it is quite dry and witty.
The selfishness and agendas of each of the characters is exposed one after another. Stocked with the typical characters you find in small villages, the film subversively shows them in a bad light – or should I say a more human light. We are also offered the more serious lesson of seeing that actions that we intend to be jokes can really have more serious consequences.
Once again Gemma Atherton proves to be more than another pretty face. Like she did with "The Disappearance of Alice Creed" she is not only going to impress you with her looks, but also her dedication to the material. She now can add good comedic timing to her list of attributes.
The dialogue is sparkling, scenery is gorgeous, cinematography is crisp, soundtrack is marvellous, and the humour is very black. At times it does drag on, but if you want something different from your average Hollywood romantic comedy then give this one a go.