The Party (4 stars)

The Party

A celebration turns enjoyably sour in Sally Potter's uproarious comedy of manners

British writer-director Sally Potter returns with her most accessible and uproarious film yet. Shot in black-and-white, and running to a succinct 71-minutes, The Party is a nimble ensemble comedy that gathers together a fine cast for a cutting swipe at the British upper-middle-class. Set in one location over the course of a single evening, the film begins as high-flying Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) is preparing for an intimate gathering at her home to celebrate her promotion to Shadow Health Minister.

As her mournful-looking academic husband Bill (Timothy Spall) plays his music too loudly in the living room, their close friends begin to arrive. The acerbic April (Patricia Clarkson, superb) is accompanied by a partner (Bruno Ganz) she seems to despise. Meanwhile, Martha (Cherry Jones) and her younger lover Jinny (Emily Mortimer), have just discovered they're about to become parents to triplets. And then there's Tom (Cillian Murphy), a banker with a coke problem who arrives looking to spoil the party.

Indebted to films like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Potter sends her characters into the fray as revelations and recriminations are served up alongside the champagne and canapés. Without spoiling the surprises, issues of fidelity and trust play out. Socialism versus capitalism is also a huge topic, as Potter's well-to-do left-wing idealists turn on Murphy's sharp-suited city boy.

Filled with fine performances – notably Ganz, who is hilarious as airy-fairy life-coach Gottfried – it's as riotous as it is pertinent, the perfect tonic in Brexit Britain. Aided by expert cinematography and production design and making for a fascinating contrast to her anti-mainstream movies like The Tango Lesson and Rage, Potter proves that she can take the pulse of the nation. This is well worth catching.

General release from Fri 13 Oct.

The Party

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • UK
  • 1h 11min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Sally Potter
  • Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones
  • UK release: 13 October 2017

Janet (Scott Thomas) is throwing a party to celebrate her promotion to Shadow Health Minister, but as friends arrive, secrets emerge and it all starts to unravel. Potter’s most accessible and uproarious film yet runs to a succinct 71 minutes but expertly takes the pulse of the nation.