Film review: Glorious 39

Posted on: 20 November 2009 by Mark O'haire

Glorious 39 combines glamour, history, a growing menace and fear of the future. Add in generous helpings of evil and you have a thriller in which the tension and suspense grow from beginning to end.

The film is set in those few short weeks before the outbreak of WWII when Neville Chamberlain was busy declaring ‘Peace in our time’ and appeasement was in the air.

Stephen Poliakoff, director and writer of Glorious 39 explains: “I wanted to create a suspenseful story that would resonate with a modern audience, but which was firmly based on historical fact. So many elements of Glorious 39 are true - the spying and the secret service being used by the government to quell all opposition to its policy of appeasement.

“In the space of a handful of weeks in 1939, British society was completely transformed. A glorious, golden summer dominated by some of the greatest parties the aristocracy had ever held turned quickly into an autumn where the survival of democracy was hanging by a thread.”

Anne Keyes (Romola Garai), the adopted daughter of Sir Alexander Keyes (Bill Nighy) is a budding film actress. Her life seems set on a path of being loved and admired by her friends and family until she finds some old records in a barn on the family estate in Norfolk.

Putting one on the turntable and hearing not dance music but recordings of phone conversations sets her life on a downward spiral. What she hears undermines everything she believed. Says Romola Garai: “My character, Anne, is an independent young woman who has a great deal of freedom.

She has a warm and easy personality and her work in films is a major part of her life.

“At the start of the story, Anne is not particularly interested in politics even though she has friends who are politicians as well as a boyfriend and her brother who are both working in the Foreign Office. Anne comes to a point in the story where she realises that she has completely misunderstood her family and underestimated the very real threat that surrounds her.

“The extraordinary thing about the appeasers was that once Dunkirk happened and it was clear that the nation was going to fight, it appears as though many of them simply changed sides. And, of course, a great many of the ‘appeasers’ had fought and suffered in WWI and the last thing they wanted to see was a repetition of the horrors so many people suffered.”

Glorious 39 combines glamour, history, a growing menace and fear of the future. Add in generous helpings of evil and you have a thriller in which the tension and suspense grow from beginning to end.

By Stewart Andersen

Glorious 39 opens nationwide on 27 November.

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