The Duchess (12A) 110min
In his second film feature UK filmmaker Saul Bullet Boy Dibb retells the tragic true life story of 18th/early 19th Century aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. Celebrated beauty and socialite Georgiana (Keira Knightley) is married off to an uncaring Duke (Ralph Fiennes). It’s a mismatched and temperamental marriage in which she finds little favour with her husband. Her friend Bess (Hayley Atwell) comes to comfort her but before you could unlace a corset, Bess has her feet under the both the family table and the Duke. Georgiana, in turn, falls for future prime minister Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper) but only inequality and tragedy can come of such assignations.
Given resonance by its all too obvious Diana Princess of Wales analogy (who was a distant relative of Cavendish), The Duchess is essentially a beautifully shot and directed period TV drama. The alienation that this bright, spirited woman felt is hammered home, even if we are often at a loss as to exactly why the public adored her. Danish co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen (Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Brothers) brings some ennui to proceedings with endless scenes of Georgiana wandering hopelessly round the Devonshire estate, a ghost in her own life and marriage. Fiennes’ Duke of Devonshire becomes more than a mean old man, presented as a husband trapped by social form, unable to connect with his young wife, but equally unable to let her run around town with a political upstart. Familiar and tedious stuff. Vive la république!
General release from Fri 5 Sep.