Dir: Donald Rice. UK. 2012. 95mins
Donald Rice’s impressive debut film Cheerful Weather For The Wedding features a series of deftly presented performances all set against the delightfully claustrophobic backdrop of a small British country house where a mismatched extended family gather for a wedding.
Director Donald Rice and his co-screenwriter Mary Henely Magill have done a fine job in adapting Julia Strachey’s 1932 novella.
Juggling biting humour with a dash of intense romance all set against that great British inability to express emotion, the film at times has an almost stage-bound quality as the various characters – from guests to staff – scurry around the house as the wedding ceremony draws closer.
Though the strong cast are uniformly impressive, it is the performances of rising star Felicity Jones (who starred in breakout romance Like Crazy) and Elizabeth McGovern (on the crest of a wave with TV drama Downton Abbey) that really drive the film, playing a daughter and mother to be reckoned with. The film, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, should appeal to distribs fond of classy costume drama as well as likely have a strong festival life.
The film is set on chilly morning in 1932 as the family of Dolly Thatcham (Jones) gather at the Devon manor house for the ceremony at a nearby church. Guests range from Dolly’s best friend Evelyn (a suitably sultry performance from Zoë Tapper) and Dolly’s clumsily enthusiastic man-obsessed younger sister Kitty (a charming Ellie Kendrick) through to her Uncle Bob (Julian Wadham), a religious man with little interest in religion and elderly, doddery, and occasionally deaf Horace Spiggott (John Standing).
It is the arrival, though, of Joseph Patten (Luke Treadaway), that throws Dolly’s mother Hetty (McGovern) into a panic. Joseph and Dolly were an item the previous summer and she is concerned his arrival will hamper the wedding plans.
As Dolly drinks rum and dresses upstairs in her room, in the floors below the preparations for the wedding threaten to get out of control as the clock ticks on and everyone get more and more anxious as to whether she will ever emerge.
The turmoils inside the house are set against idyllically shot flashbacks to that summer which show how Dolly and Joseph fell passionately in love. Everything is revealed slowly and elegantly, with the beautifully mounted summer scenes acting as a delightful counterbalance to the edgily funny wedding day sequences.
Luke Treadaway is perhaps given most to do as the young man desperate to declare his love to a woman about to be married to another – he spends much time ambling from room to room looking distressed – though it is Felicity Jones who makes the strongest impact. Initially barely seen, she comes into stronger focus as the film draws on, whether it be swigging rum from a rather large bottle while dressed in her sleek white wedding dress, and looking stunning in the summer flashback scenes as she challenges Joseph to show his love.
Director Donald Rice and his co-screenwriter Mary Henely Magill have done a fine job in adapting Julia Strachey’s 1932 novella – though at times there are just too many people struggling for screen time, especially two teenage boy cousins who add little to the proceedings – and make great use of the period dialogue and social situation.
Production companies: Goldcrest Films, Yellow Knife, BFI
Producer: Teun Hilte
International sales: (domestic) UTA. (International) Goldcrest Films www.goldcrestfilms.com
Associate producer: Alexandra Arlango
Screenplay: Donald Rice, Mary Henely Magill, based on the novella by Julia Strachey
Cinematography: John Lee
Editor: Stephen Haren
Production designer: Anna Lavelle
Music: Michael Price
Main cast: Felicity Jones, Luke Treadaway, Elizabeth McGovern, Mackenzie Crook, Fenella Woolgar, Zoë Tapper, Julian Wadham, Sophie Stanton, Olly Alexander, Ellie Kendrick, Barbara Flynn