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Keeping Mum
UKScreen Rating:

Keeping Mum – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

With important sermons to deliver and the village’s chief flower-arranger to pacify, bumbling vicar Walter (Atkinson) is just too busy to give his wife Gloria (Scott Thomas) the attention she deserves. Not that she has time to notice – she’s playing rather more than the normal eighteen holes with her smarmy American golf coach Lance (Swayze).
Between them, they have so little time to look after their demanding teenaged children that they decide to hire a nanny.
When the mysterious, elderly Grace (Smith) turns up, everything suddenly starts going right for the family – their son stops getting bullied at school and the nuisance neighbour’s noisy dog falls silent, not to mention the village trouble-makers disappearing, one by one.
Grace seems to bring joy to Gloria and her family, while destruction befalls everyone around them.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This is another of those films that kind of switches gear midway through. It begins as a mild-mannered and slight comedy about a mismatched nanny and the family she’s moved in with, but it turns into a very dark, almost slapstick comedy thriller, with a body count worthy of a Schwarzenegger movie.
But unlike some films, which cleverly blend two genres, watching this one makes you feel like you’ve got bored of the Sunday evening TVC family drama, so you’ve switched over to a murder farce on the other side.
It’s not just this juxtaposition that’s clumsy. There are basically two twists, which are revealed in such lazy, expositional ways (in one, they just happen to overhear a news bulletin on the TV and in the other, a character just blurts out the “surprise” when there’s nowhere else for the plot to go) – that said, with both of the twists being signposted almost from the first scene – or even earlier – it’s not as if they take away any excitement or tension.
And for a film that’s so contrived, the ending is surprisingly ambiguous – unintentionally so, I’d wager. On the one hand, it appears to be a film about an emotional reunion between two characters – on the other, one of the characters appears to leave the other facing charges of mass murder – not quite as heart-warming as I presume the film-makers intended.
All that said, the key performances are fun – an understated Atkinson, a suitably smarmy Swayze and a cheeky Dame who’s clearly having far more fun than we are.
And despite a contrived plot, which is signposted better than the M1, the film was more enjoyable than it had any right to be.

Opens nationwide on 2nd December 2005

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