A Month in the Country


IMDb Rating 7.2 10 1094


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Kenneth Branagh as James Moon
Colin Firth as Birkin
Natasha Richardson as Alice Keach
Jim Carter as Ellerbeck

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by JustApt 10 / 10

Harmony Heals

What does it take to be happy? First of all it takes tranquility. And so often the happiest days of our life are those when nothing crucial happened. So a month in the country was a real treat to the protagonist and A Month in the Country is a real treat to a viewer… "Well, we all see things with different eyes, and it gets you nowhere hoping that even one in a thousand will see things your way." The film is also a deepest contemplation on the nature of art and history and the harmony of life… "We can ask and ask but we can't have again what once seemed ours for ever – the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on a belfry floor, a remembered voice, a loved face. They've gone and you can only wait for the pain to pass." It is better to watch this movie after reading a book then all the nuances will be more vivid.

Reviewed by tomsview 8 / 10

Country cure

Although little seems to happen on the surface, "A Month in the Country" has an emotional depth that keeps this film lingering in the memory.

Set a few years after WW1, Tom Birkin (Colin Firth), a returned soldier, takes a job to restore a Medieval mural in a country church. He has a bad stammer, the result of traumatic wartime experiences, which we see briefly at the beginning. The vicar of the church, the Reverend Keach (Patrick Malahide) is only allowing him to restore the artwork under sufferance, but an attraction develops between Tom and the vicar's wife, Alice (Natasha Richardson). He also becomes friends with another returned soldier, James Moon (Kenneth Branagh), who is working on an archaeological dig, and also dealing with issues related to the war.

This is a restrained film, which against the background of life in rural Yorkshire in the early 1920's, depicts a couple of returned soldiers dealing with their disrupted lives and shattered nerves as best they can - shell shock was the broad term used back then.

To show how tough life was for many returned soldiers from WW1, there is a sobering statistic that seems to suggest that within 10 years of the end of hostilities, the same number of veterans had died that were actually killed during the war, especially from armies that had been exposed to gas such as those on the Western Front. In its quiet way, "A Month in the Country", although made 70 years after the war, gives pause for a little reflection.

However, the film has an uplifting tone. Although the locals at first seem uncaring about Tom, their later kindness and attempts at inclusion overwhelm him. Even the minister is seen to be a troubled man. The restoration of the mural is a painstaking job, but eventually the painting is revealed showing God in heaven while below him sinners suffer the torments of hell. With that hanging over their heads, it is little wonder that Tom and Alice do not give way to their mutual attraction even when she visits him in the belfry where he sleeps.

By the time Tom has finished restoring the mural, the month in the country, and the new friends he has made have also restored his health and his spirits - he no longer stammers.

It is fascinating to see actors like Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh fairly early in their careers. "A Month in the Country" rewards anyone who takes the time to let the story unfold at its measured pace - there are no fireworks here, and that in a way makes it a refreshing experience.

Reviewed by Ladybugking 10 / 10

A Very Special Film

One cannot add much to some of the excellent reviews for this film here already. (So please read them!) It is NOT an easy film to find, and, great pity, should be! It belongs in any collection that boasts films from both Firth and Branagh.

I loved its slow-moving, but emotionally moving, pace. The performances are simply superb. From everyone.

It tells the tale, ultimately, of two shattered survivors of World War I whose path back to the world is taken a step at a time. It is technically Firth's movie and what a performance from him, still in his 20's. It is thrilling to experience how he totally immerses himself in a part and becomes one with every aspect of his character. Seeing him here lets the viewer experience the early years of someone becoming a great actor and, subsequently, one of the best of his generation. It is still a mystery to me why Colin Firth has chosen some of the parts he played in films over the years, because such amazing potential in him was so very obvious in this part of the quiet, shy, shaken Mr. Birkin.

One side note, not sure if it is a spoiler, but I was very interested in the depiction of the returning veteran with the stammer. A bit of foreshadowing to Firth's incredible performance in "The King's Speech" over two decades later. One thread in TKS deals with King George's speech therapist, Lionel Logue, who achieved his skill and reputation working with stammering returning veterans of WWI, exactly of the ilk the young Colin Firth played in this movie.

Much is made of the sun-drenched, dreamy setting in Yorkshire and it is also very much a part of what sustains these two damaged boys and helps them along in recovery.

I would say this is one film in the catalog of Colin Firth that should NOT be missed. And there is hope on my part it becomes as readily available as some of his work in forgettable films. (Though he is always, always good in every performance.)

This film, to me, is unforgettable. As others have said in reviews here. It bears watching multiple times. That is the ultimate compliment.

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