(director: Roger Michell; screenwriters: Richard Bean/Clive Coleman; cinematographer: Mike Eley; editor: Kristina Hetherington; music: George Fenton; cast: Jim Broadbent (Kempton Bunton), Helem Mirren (Lilya Frances), Aimee Kelly (Irene), Fionn Whitehead (Jackie Bunton), Jack Bandeira (Kenny Bunton), Matthew Goode (Jeremy Hutchinson, barrister), Stephen Rashbrook (Jury Foreman), Craig Conway (Mr. Walker), Richard McCabe (Rab Butler), Heather Craney (Debbie, court clerk); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: R; producer; Nicky Bentham: Sony Pictures Classics; 2020-UK)
“Broadbent brilliantly plays an endearing character you can’t help caring about.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The last film by South African filmmaker Roger Michell(“Blackbird”/”Nothing Like A Dame”), who passed away last year, is a fun film but gets a bit weighed down by the sentimental script of Clive Coleman and Richard Bean. Roger directs this British dramedy with a good sense of old-fashioned British wit. The film is based on a true story on the art theft of Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London, in 1961, by Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent), a 60 year old Newcastle taxi driver.
The free-thinking Kempton believed that the elderly and veterans should be able to have free television licenses, and not have to pay a tax to view programming (which is how the BBC is financed). While he’s outspoken about local social issues within his community, Kempton’s family is going through a rough time having lost their daughter. His long-suffering loving wife Dorothy (Helen Mirren) just wants to live a quiet life and is not pleased hubby is a playwright with no plays produced. Their loyal younger son Jackie (Fionn Whitehead) is excited about pursuing a business opportunity and the older son Kenny (Jack Bandeira) is depicted as a ne’er-do-well, and possible criminal.
This was the first and only time there was an art theft at the National Gallery. The police pushed the idea it was the work of a sophisticated international criminal gang. But were chagrined upon receiving Kempton’s goofy poetic notes to support his cause and realized it was pinched by an amateur thief for a cause.
In 1965 Kempton returns the painting and gives himself up to the police. The last part of the film covers his trial.
The low-key comedy hits all the right spots, its story is appealing because its offbeat and Broadbent brilliantly plays an endearing character you can’t help caring about.
REVIEWED ON 4/26/2022 GRADE: B