It is now 28 years since John Boorman’s Hope and Glory, his stirring account of boyhood life in London during the Blitz, made its first appearance on our screens. His latest film Queen and Country (Curzon Bloomsbury and selected cinemas nationwide) is another affectionate semi-autobiographical work and a perfect companion piece.
It finds 18 year-old Bill (an engaging performance by newcomer Callum Turner) called up for National Service against a backdrop of the Korean War. But rather than going overseas, Bill remains in a training camp. Portraying the regimental absurdism of barracks life with rueful amusement, Boorman vividly evokes Britain’s fleeting experiment with peacetime conscription. Assigned to teach typing to soldiers who will soon be on the front line in battle, Bill and his fellow recruit (Caleb Landry Jones) have little time for the pomp and hierarchy of military life, hilariously embodied by David Thewliss as their rules stressed Sergeant. Besides Bill has more serious matters to attend to such as beautiful older woman (Tamsin Egerton) and – in what feels like the film’s most unabashedly personal touch – his burgeoning obsession with cinema.
The storyline is thin and the film lacks dramatic punch – the emphasis is on character rather than action – and the only pivotal narrative incident is a carefully plotted heist of a regimental clock in the mess hall. There is also an episode involving cigarettes drowned in strawberry jam.
But the film is beautifully shot and acted and there is a warmth and generosity of spirit to Boorman’s lovely portrait of 1950s Britain.
I am sure you will leave the cinema with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face.
Queen and Country
Selected cinemas nationwide from Friday 12 June 2015.Last modified: June 9, 2021