A Month in the Country (1987)

“Hell means different things to different people.”

The film A Month in the Country is based on the wonderful novel by James Lloyd Carr. It’s the story of a young man, Birkin (Colin Firth) who is employed to uncover a mural in a small church located in the village of Oxgodby. Birkin has a nervous twitch and a stammer–remnants of the horrors of WWI. At the church, he befriends fellow WWI survivor, Moon (Kenneth Branagh). Moon is there to excavate the bones of an ancestor of the local nobility. During the course of a beautiful languorous summer, Birkin steadily works to uncover the mural and becomes involved with local villagers–including the vicar’s beautiful wife.

Visually, the film is beautiful, and the film does follow the plot of the novel quite faithfully. The acting is excellent–particularly the scenes between the vicar’s wife, Mrs. Keach and Birkin. However, while the novel gently stresses the idea that Birkin heals gradually through the combination of the satisfaction with his artistic achievement and the tranquility of Oxgodby, these and other finer points in the novel, are not fully explored. So while the plot is faithful to the novel–it lacks its subtlety and depths. The main fault lies in the fact that Birkin acts as an observer of the story, and the film fails to show how the fateful summer alters Birkin’s perspective. He does not seem to digest and interpret the experience–it all just happens.

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