Mr Malcolm's List


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Mr Malcolm's List
"Everyone is just a bit too genteel for their own good - and the film favours the romance too heavily over the satire."

There's a sweet-hearted, fan-fiction style charm to this Regency-set romantic drama, helped a lot by a likeable cast but it lacks the intelligent bite of the Jane Austen-style back and forths its writer Suzanne Allain (adapting from her own novel) is so clearly in love with.

The list of the title belongs to "the catch of the season", Sope Dirisu's handsome and wealthy eligible bachelor who has a very distinctive set of qualities that he is looking for in his bride. When he gets bored with his latest date Julia Thistlethwaite - whose name, like many here, feels more as though it has been transported from Charles Dickens than Austen - she finds herself the subject of a comic caricature. Appalled, not least because she has had successive 'seasons' looking for Mr Right, she hatches a plot to give Mr Malcolm a taste of his own medicine. The scheme involves inviting her old school friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) - notably the daughter of a more 'lower class' clergyman - up to London, and persuading her she must help avenge the slight by winning Mr Malcolm's heart and then breaking it.

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Of course, things do not go to plan as kind-hearted Selina - who, despite her obvious intelligence, would, you suspect, be considered a bit lacking in gumption by Austen - starts falling for the bachelor as well. When Whit Stillman tackled this sort of thing a few years back with his take on Austen's Love & Friendship, it was witty and sharp as a tack, here, everyone is just a bit too genteel for their own good - and the film favours the romance too heavily over the satire.

First-time director Emma Holly Jones sells the romance element well enough and when it comes to the acting Zawe Ashton's Julia and Theo James as the man who starts to fall for her are the standout, retaining verve even when the script doesn't give them much room for manoeuvre. Oliver Jackson-Cohen also has considerable fun as Julia's cousin Lord Cassidy. "It's what people say that matters," Julia notes at one point, so it's a shame this film is mostly repeating what it's heard from others - not just Austen and Dickens but also the likes of Dangerous Liaisons - rather than finding something distinctive to say for itself.

Reviewed on: 26 Aug 2022
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Mr Malcolm's List packshot
A tale of scheming and romance set in Regency England.
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Director: Emma Holly Jones

Writer: Suzanne Allain

Starring: Aisling Doyle, Tia Ann Jain, Zawe Ashton, Sianad Gregory, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Sope Dirisu, Theo James, Emma Willis, Danielle Ryan, Divian Ladwa, Freida Pinto, Dawn Bradfield, Gerry O'Brien, Naoko Mori, Sophie Vavasseur

Year: 2022

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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Love & Friendship