|a village affair
|Directed by: Moira Armstrong
|Written by: Alma Cullen
What an odd little cinematic experience this is. I was expecting
big things considering it does star both Kerry Fox and Jeremy
Northam, but I wasn't quite expecting my bizarre reaction to it.
At times I was going "awwwww", at times I was going
"ugggh!" and at times I had to bury my face in a pillow
because I was cackling like a mad fishwife and scaring the dog.
The good news is, the times I was really laughing were actually
intentionally funny, so that's at least a good start.
A Village Affair is a quaint little English
drama about a young married couple (everyone kept calling them
a young married couple despite having been married for ten years
and having had four children) who buy a big estate house next
to a small village. The money and prestige of the area belongs
to Sir and Lady Unwin, whose daughter Clodagh has just returned
in a flourish from New York.
The Unwins invite our young couple, Alice and Martin Jordan,
over for dinner one night amongst a plethora of other village
yokels, I mean locals. Clodagh and Martin hit it off famously,
while Alice, still suffering a bout of post-natal depression from
the birth of her last child and feeling very disconnected with
the world, thinks Clodagh is rude and obnoxious.
Gradually though, Clodagh squirms her way into the affections
of the Jordan clan. She makes amends with Alice for their getting
off on the wrong foot and the two become fast friends. Alice begins
to participate in the community and, through her growing friendship
with Clodagh, begins to emerge from the shell-shocked state in
which she's spent the last few years. Even Martin's overbearing
mother notices the change in Alice and is dismayed.
The Unwins become Martin's biggest client (he's a lawyer), an
arrangement which promises to make everyone wealthier and even
more chummy - but the hitch is that Clodagh has only brought this
about so that she can spend more and more time with Alice. Finally
she makes the confession. She's attracted to women. And not a
single person in the audience is shocked.
Martin however, despite a failed pass at Clodagh, remains oblivious.
Alice realises that her feelings for Clodagh run deeper than she
ever thought possible and they begin a very sweet affair (awwww!),
which is constantly and consistently rudely interrupted by the
filmmakers fading to black every time something gets interesting
(ugggh!). But hey, it was pretty racy for 1994.
In the background we have the typical and often infuriating bit
players. As with all films about small towns, the village itself
is an important character in the plot, so much so that we keep
being reminded by the annoying shopkeeper that it's a small village.
But the incessant chattering and gossiping about each other's
business seems authentic enough.
However, it wouldn't be a film if Clodagh and Alice's secret,
blissful liaison were allowed to continue uninterrupted, now would
it? Once Martin's wastrel brother Anthony hits town he immediately
tries and fails to hit on Alice. As a result of which he concludes
that Alice and Clodagh are having an affair. Seriously, I can't
figure out how else he could have known. Alice turned him down,
so she must be a lesbian. So Anthony turns around and dutifully
informs Martin of this fact before he blows town.
It was around about this point that I realised that Alice's eldest
daughter is being played by an extremely young Keira Knightley,
so that distracted me no end for the rest of the film. I'm kind
of glad about that though, because in the fine tradition of coming
out films, the plot of the film and Alice's marriage started unravelling
at a fairly equally ridiculous rate from then on.
Suddenly the village is divided into who is disgusted and who
isn't. Clodagh, who had previously been a babbler and happy to
the point where I thought maybe it might eventually be revealed
that she was addicted to Lithium, becomes instantly suicidal.
The remainder of her scenes are spent crying and throwing herself
at people's feet declaring that without Alice she will die. Martin
suffers an equally messy fate.
Alice, for her part, suddenly becomes all strong and enigmatic,
making life-shattering decisions for absolutely no reason. For
the life of me I still can't figure out why that particular ending
was necessary. I love you but I need to leave. Why, exactly? I
mean, I know Clodagh wasn't quite as sexy while she was blubbering
about doing herself in as she was before that, but still, it did
seem to me like she did get a bit shafted. I guess every viewer
needs to make up their own mind on that point.
I was very glad that the joke they were leading up to throughout
the entire film about the Village Wives society did eventually
hit pay dirt. Watch out for that one, I was worried that I'd burst
something. Finally, it might be my non-British roots showing here,
but what kind of a name is Clodagh? I kept picturing this little
lesbian leprechaun running around threatening to beat people up
with her shillelagh. Also, one of the women had the unfortunate
name of Lettice, that was pronounced "lettuce". I got
confused every time. But anyway, I digress.
Like I said, it's a funny little film, but it doesn't take a
single step off the beaten path. Take one coming-out-when-older
storyline. Add one quaint English village (preferably that same
one you've seen on every second UK TV show about a quaint little
English village). Stir frequently. That'll give you the idea.
There was a moment or two while skinny dipping in the pond when
I thought the ladies were going to get all D.H. Lawrence on us,
but to no avail.
Alas, a good rental I guess with a couple of classy moments,
but on the whole not really very good.
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