The Duke

The Duke
Date: 21/06/2022 Times: 7:30 pm - 9:05 pm

There’s an organisation called Movies for Grownups and they nominated the film as the Best Grownup Love Story and the two main actors, Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren for Best Actor and Actress. It is the last film that Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Le Weekend, My Cousin Rachel) made before he died and has been a hit with critics and audiences. It tells the true story of working-class eccentric Kempton Bunton, a 60-year old taxi driver, who, in 1961, stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. It was the first (and remains the only) theft in the Gallery’s history. Kempton sent ransom notes saying that he would return the painting on condition that the government invested more in care for the elderly – he had long campaigned for pensioners to receive free television. What happened next became the stuff of legend. Only 50 years later did the full story emerge – Kempton had spun a web of lies. The only truth was that he was a good man, determined to change the world and save his marriage – how and why he used the Duke to achieve that is a wonderfully uplifting tale.

Broadbent is always worth watching when he gets a lead, and what seems an amusing ramble through a minor chapter in British eccentricity becomes something larger when Bunton is caught and put on trial. There everyone present is charmed by the character’s imperturbable humor and doughty sense of self and, more affectingly, by Bunton’s belief in a society that’s communal and caring – the notion that I am you and you are me and if we don’t look out for each other, what’s the point? By the final scenes of The Duke, this lumpy old soul has taken on the stature of William Blake, the common-man mystic who saw the threads connecting us all, and as if to underscore the point, here comes Blake’s Jerusalem on the soundtrack, a hymn that never fails to bring some of us to tears. It’s all handled with a deft touch by director Roger Michell.

Broadbent’s dithery, endearing performance pairs perfectly with fellow Oscar winner Helen Mirren’s as Dorothy Bunton, who supports the family by cleaning houses and takes a dim, sarcastic view of her husband’s shenanigans. Broadbent and Mirren make the Buntons’ affection credible and lived-in. We believe these two are in love, even as she’s making cracks like, ‘Oh, you’re back? Didn’t bring down the government, then?’

Click below for a review, trailer and more information.

The Duke

Year: 2020

Country: UK

Cert: 12

Duration: 95 mins

Dir: Roger Michell

'A charming, understated and completely enjoyable frolic'

(118 seats remaining)

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Venue: William Loveless Hall