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Wah-Wah

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    The Fallout of British Colonialism

    Gifted actor Richard E. Grant makes his writing and directing debut with this highly entertaining film about the last days of British colonial protectorate of Swaziland, East-South Africa, drawing from his memoirs as a child growing up in Swaziland the time when the Kingdom of Swaziland was given its independence from British rule. The autobiographical nature of the film aids in Grant's sensitive approach to creating this drama tinged with comedy and the result if a film that is one of the strongest depictions of the end of British colonialism in the world. Supported by a sterling cast Grant makes a strong impression with this delightful outing. Harry Compton (Gabriel Byrne) is the Minister of Education for Swaziland, respected by both the natives and the snobbish, insular, stuffy colonialists who live in the isolation of the colony's chief city. Harry is married to Lauren (Miranda Richardson) whose disgust with her husband's home habits and the stifling life of the colonialists is placated by adultery: her latest affair is with John Traherne (Ian Roberts) whose wife Gwen (Julie Walters) is a close friend of the family. Their son Ralph (played as a young boy by Zachary Fox and as an older lad by Nicholas Hoult) discovers his mother's adultery and the family comes to a disastrous crumble as Lauren leaves Harry and Ralph to escape her perceived prison. Harry descends into alcoholism and Ralph is sent away to boarding school, only to return a few years later to find that Harry has married a tacky but truthful American Ruby (Emily Watson) whose presence is the center of disgust from the colonials lead by their Lady Hardwick (Celia Imre) and who mimics the colonial snobbery by terming their insular and foolish language as 'wah-wah'. Gradually Ruby wins the confidence and respect of Ralph and as the time approaches for the British to hand over the independence to the natives, Princess Margaret is scheduled for an appearance and the colonials led by Lady Hardwick plan a performance of 'Camelot' for the occasion. Ralph discovers he can both sing and act and wins a role in the play, finding the beginning of his true self at last. How the production and the Princess' visit come off and how the intricacies of the Compton family are resolved serve as the finale of the film. There are numerous subplots in the film and not all of them are fully realized or even necessary, but chalk that up to the 'first film' experience of Grant. Grant does demonstrate a sturdy hand in directing a cast of superb actors, both British and African including the excellent John Matshikiza whose Dr. Zim Mzimba represents one of the only grounded minds in the film. The beauty of Swaziland is captured by the lush photography by Pierre Aïm and a thoroughly charming musical score by Patrick Doyle. Not only is the story entertaining and well told, it also gives us insights into the machinations of the last of the British Empire era. Recommended viewing. Grady Harp

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