The Last September

The Last September


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Delicacy is not something the cinema understands anymore. Producers equate the word with taking a box office bath. Deborah Warner is one of London's most exciting theatre directors. This is her first film, based on a novel by Elizabeth Bowen, scripted by award-winning Irish writer, John Banville, with a dream cast. Undoubtedly, it is a delicate piece.

The Anglo Irish aristocracy in the Twenties appeared as mirror images of their English counterparts. On the surface, they behaved in the same way, played the same games, lived in similar country houses and rode to hounds. Underneath, however, they were very different. When the IRA and Black & Tans fought each other in an increasingly vicious guerrilla war, their loyalties were torn.

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The Last September is supposed to portray the end of the Anglo Irish toffs. It doesn't, really. It centres around Lois (Keeley Hawes), teenage neice of Sir Richard (Michael Gambon) and Lady Naylor (Maggie Smith), of whom it is said, "I have never met anyone so determined to be in love." The ineffectual British officer (David Tennant), billeted in the village, is infatuated, while her heart belongs to a renegade terrorist (Gary Lydon), who is on the run and hiding in a disused barn on the Naylor estate.

Warner has enormous sympathy for Lois and Hawes is wonderful in the part. The rest of the upper-class hangers-on are not mocked, simply encouraged to ridicule themselves. The eccentricity of Sir Richard and witty observations of Lady Myra are celebrated rather than abused. The pace is slow and the action, when it comes, muted. This is a mood piece, unlike Fools Of Fortune, which covered the same ground more successfully in Pat O'Connor's 1990 film. The thing about delicacy is that emotion can shatter it. Warner makes sure this doesn't happen.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The decline of the Anglo-Irish gentry of the Twenties, as seen through the eyes of one family.
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Director: Deborah Warner

Writer: John Banville

Starring: Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Jane BIrkin, Keeley Hawes, Fiona Shaw, Lambert Wilson

Year: 1999

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


EIFF 1999

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