ever one to shy away from the unpalatable, writer Ian McEwan (in his first feature screenplay) here casts a cold eye over personal and professional misconduct at the height of the Falklands conflict. Director Richard Eyre (Iris) brings to the production an appropriately frosty tone and the result is an impressively bitter dissection of the English at war.
The story focuses on journalist James Penfield (Pryce) as he goes about researching a book on the Suez Crisis. Keen to keep his political paymasters happy he adopts an extremely right-wing, partisan tone. Secretly ashamed of his lowly background he also chases filmmaker Susan (Dore) in the hope that some of her class might rub off on him. But Susan’s mother (Harris) is a vocal left-wing historian and Penfield’s opportunism brings nothing but misery to everyone he encounters.
A quality cast do full justice to a snappy script. However, this being McEwan, the political analysis is allied to an equally rigorous investigation of character. Penfield himself becomes emblematic of the chilly new values sweeping Thatcher’s Britain. A grim conception of the nation’s moral health, but compelling nonetheless.
Jonathan Pryce as James Penfield
Tim Curry as Jeremy Hancock
Rosemary Harris as Ann Barrington
Frank Finlay as Matthew Fox
Charlie Dore as Susan Barrington
David de Keyser as Gold
Bill Paterson as Lecturer
Orlando Wells as Tom Fox
Writer: Ian McEwan
Director: Richard Eyre
UK | 107 minutes | 1983