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Tamara Drewe
UKScreen Rating:

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

When her mother dies, head-turning newspaper columnist Tamara (Gemma Arterton) returns to the village where she grew up to renovate her house before selling it off.

Her arrival – complete with new nose – creates a whirlwind of change in the sleepy village, where her childhood sweetheart Andy (Luke Evans) still works as a handyman for the neighbours, philandering crime novelist Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam) and his unsuspecting, doting wife Beth (Tamsin Greig), who run a writers’ retreat at their farm.

Two local teenagers – apparently the only youths in the village – spend their time reading up on make-up tips in the long-disused bus shelter, or hiding behind road-side walls, throwing eggs at passing cars.

The village is put on the map when a popular boy-band plays a gig in a field at a nearby farm. Tamara goes to interview the drummer Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper) who, much to the annoyance of the jealous teenagers, ends up moving into Tamara’s house – with his dog.

Over the months that follow, Tamara finds herself like a pinball, bouncing between three men, who are all looking for something different from her, while Nicholas’s womanising pushes his marriage to breaking point and the mischief-making teenagers cause chaos in the personal lives of everyone around them.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Despite what the plot might suggest, this is meant to be a comedy – and you will laugh. But much of the humour is broad, obvious, based on stereotypes and clumsily structured. But you will laugh.

At its heart, the story is more of a drama, with difficulties in the personal lives of so many people being brought to a head and so many relationships starting and finishing with both comic and tragic effect.

But as a drama, it’s a failure – because most of the characters are monstrous caricatures with few sympathetic traits and none of what happens is a result of any conscious decisions. The plot just happens, mostly driven by the japes of the teenaged girls, so it’s not about characters being faced with the consequences of their choices.

Dominic Cooper plays a popstar who’s way beneath his ability. Roger Allam and Tamsin Greig are the most interesting characters – Greig also being the only sympathetic person on screen – but they’re too far removed from the core of the film to be the central points of interest. The loser writers who attend their retreat act as our proxy, watching the action from within the film. Tamara Drewe herself should be the heart of this film and while she looks great, we never really know what she’s looking for and why she does what she does.

This presents a Sunday-afternoon TV view of the glorious English countryside and the eccentrics who reside therein, and it’s certainly full of good-natured (and bad-natured) fun, but it’s far more shallow than it thinks it is – and the dog-leg of a denouement comes clunkily out of nowhere, making you doubt that whole point of the film you’ve just watched.

Opens 10 September 2006

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