Writer and director: Sally Potter
Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy
71 mins, UK, 2017
Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer and Cillian Murphy make up the talented ensemble cast in this short, sharp, up-to-the-minute, hilarious satire on the chattering classes written and directed by the wonderful Sally Potter.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays Janet who is throwing a party in her north London house for a few close friends to celebrate her appointment as Shadow Health Minister. Her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) has always been supportive of her political ambitions. Before the guests arrive we see Bill alone in the sitting-room, glass of wine in hand, while Janet prepares vol-au-vents in the kitchen. He speaks, repeating one and then another of the words he overhears from his wife’s telephone conversation. Already we’re laughing. Spall is brilliant as the elderly lugubrious professor of history with more than one devastating secret up his sleeve. Scott Thomas is brilliant as his politician wife with a secret of her own, Patricia Clarkson is brilliant as her best friend April, blonde and acerbic, Bruno Ganz is brilliant as Gottfried, April’s elderly new-age husband and Cherry Jones is brilliant as lesbian Martha, another academic, and university contemporary of Bill’s back in the day.
And Cillian Murphy and Emily Mortimer who play the two younger guests, handsome coke-snorting Tom and Martha’s partner Jinny, the bearer – as she has discovered that very afternoon – of triplets, are just as wonderful.
Helen Taylor says: This is a wonderful mishmash of Mozart comic opera, Feydeau farce (everyone in and out of the toilet – some of the best scenes) and Mike Leigh-style social observation. I love Sally Potter’s observation of the way women function in domestic space, talk to their friends (the comment about Janet’s hair is spot on), and move swiftly between ferocious self-abnegating loyalty to partners and then furious vengeful anger. Kristin Scott Thomas and Timothy Spall are magnificent, and the whole cast are choreographed to produce a hilarious and biting satire. I love the way it opens with ‘Jerusalem’ but am not quite sure why it had to be black and white. However, Potter is a genius (this is perhaps her most accessible film to date) and I can’t wait for the next one.
The direction, writing and acting sparkle with wit and mischief. Never has the Chekhovian gun been worked for such comic effect. To quote from Danny Leigh’s FT interview with Sally Potter, reproduced on the Watershed hand-out, she said about preview audiences: ‘After 71 minutes of lies, betrayal and simmering violence, (she says) they emerge from the film looking “so happy”.’
I saw this with my friend Helen: we agreed that there’s nothing like a bit of adultery, deception, lying, drug-taking and potential murder to cheer one up.