The Movie Binge

Review: Keeping Mum


It's maybe the easiest game you can possibly play in movie-land, but "Spot The High-Concept Pitch" is honestly a pretty useful tool for summing up a movie's content in as few words as possible. Since most of the people I've talked to in the last week had no idea that Keeping Mum existed, I found myself forced to communicate the essence of the film as quickly as possible, and the high-concept I arrived at — potentially the very same one that got them their funding — was "Mary Poppins with blunt-force trauma." Box office history, here we come!

Keeping Mum isn't a particularly remarkable film, but it isn't a particularly bad one either; indeed, it's got a lot of charm going for it, and while it never really breaks out of the deeply predictable course it runs (a pretty standard British black-comedy trajectory, though it's certainly not as ink-black as perhaps it could be), it never becomes particularly frustrating or at all unwatchable. Kristin Scott Thomas (whose understated performance manages to play up her likeability, straight-man comedy chops, and her natural beauty) plays the frustrated housewife, Rowan Atkinson (keeping it low-key for once, to strong effect) is her deeply dull village-vicar husband, and Maggie Smith rolls in as the more-than-slightly homicidal nanny who brings their family together. All three are quite strong in their parts, and only Patrick Swayze is out of place (though not miscast per se) as a louche American golf pro with "romantic" designs on Scott Thomas' very married character. Again, the film is rather predictable, and not as demented or unhinged as the premise might have allowed it to be, but it seemed to hit the comedy sweet-spot of the mostly 60-something audience I saw it with (seriously, I was the youngest person in the theatre in Chelsea on a Saturday afternoon). If anything British will tickle your fancy, you could absolutely do worse than Netflixing this one, but it's not going to land on your Best Comedies Ever list any time soon.