3 June 2022.
THE DUKE ****
In such dark times of constant war news and continued world problems, it’s a relief to have such a delightful feel-good film to lean into. To remind us of the amusing, human things of life, and that there is always hope, when you persist.
Based on a true story which made headlines in England back in 1961, this gentle comedy is about a taxi driver (the always spot-on Jim Broadbent), a bit of a professorial dreamer and militant, who wants the TV tax suspended for the elderly. All his life he has been fighting against the system, for the common man, while frustrating his patient, hard-working wife (Helen Mirren).
At wit’s end, he ends up stealing Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery as ransom against the cancelling of the TV tax. This creates a nation-wide press frenzy, with the authorities believing there is a highly professional gang behind the theft.
Between the tensions and arguments at home, the frantic police hunt and the amusing courtroom trial, this film by the late Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”, “Persuasion”) brings out the best of English characteristics – their dry humor and stoic perseverance. The 60s era is perfectly captured and the ensemble acting is brilliant. It’s uncanny how much Mirren is beginning to resemble Queen Elizabeth, whom she already portrayed in “The Queen”.
THE LAST BUS **1/2
This slow, tender film about an old man’s final trip to fulfill a promise to his deceased wife is actually a broad portrait of the many kinds of people he meets on his journey. A sort of panorama of the decent and nasty in humanity, whatever their social status. It’s also a bit like the wonderful Pixar animated film from 2009 called “UP”, though a more maudlin and less adventurous vision of that undying love.
Planning a bus trip that will take him through all the places they traveled together when they were first starting out in their marriage, he persists (there is that stoic English perseverance again) in his bus trip from way up north in Scotland southwards to Land’s End in Cornwall. It’s especially difficult as he is not in the best of health, sometimes missing the buses he has carefully planned on, and there are more than a few catastrophes en route. Character actor Timothy Spall is as always excellent and the mood and music are gentle yet there is pain along the way in this loving film that tends to drag somewhat towards the end.
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Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.