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5.0 1
Director: Richard Grant

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Emily Watson, Gabriel Byrne

Actor and author Richard E. Grant made his directorial debut with this period comedy drama inspired by his own experiences growing up in colonial Africa in the sixties. Ralph Compton (Zachary Fox) is the 11-year old son of Harry (Gabriel Byrne), the minister of education in the British-controlled African


Actor and author Richard E. Grant made his directorial debut with this period comedy drama inspired by his own experiences growing up in colonial Africa in the sixties. Ralph Compton (Zachary Fox) is the 11-year old son of Harry (Gabriel Byrne), the minister of education in the British-controlled African nation of Swaziland. While Harry is a likeable and well-connected man, his marriage to Lauren (Miranda Richardson) is on shaky ground, and when he learns she's been having an affair with one of his best friends, she leaves him and he begins drinking heavily. Harry sends Ralph to boarding school when things start to get unpleasant, and after two years he returns home to discover that some changes have been made. Ralph (now played by Nicholas Hoult) finds that his father is still drinking, but seems a more relaxed and better adjusted man -- and has just remarried, having tied the knot with Ruby (Emily Watson), a former stewardess from America. Ralph naturally resists Ruby's presence in the house, but the two become close, as Ruby indicates that she understands Ralph better than anyone else (and he senses the same). Meanwhile, the British start to withdraw from Swaziland. Wah-Wah received its world premiere at the 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
When Ralph Compton (Nicholas Hoult) asks his mother (Miranda Richardson) why she ran off with "Uncle John" she replies, "he says what he means." Yet one of the problems with Wah-Wah is that, despite their priggish British background, the characters say what they mean all the time. The story is constantly lurching from one balls-out confrontation to the next. Actor Richard E. Grant's first directorial effort shows early potential, opening with some wonderfully illustrated scenes, as young Ralph (Zachary Fox) endures a backseat view of his mother fooling around and his father, Harry (Gabriel Byrne), is awarded a meaningless medal in service of the British Empire. Set in Swaziland, South East Africa, in the late '60s, Pierre Aïm's linen-white, airy cinematography captures the deceptive beauty of a tropical colonial outpost on the wane. The story is based on Grant's childhood and at times it falls into the overambitious muddle of an autobiography writ large. One problem is that Grant does a far better job of depicting the insulated British society than life at home; a country-club production of Camelot looks like it could be a movie in itself. Another is that he tries to cram way too much into the plot: first love, artistic awakening, alcoholism, familial breakdown, colonial criticism, and redemption. About three quarters of the way through, and almost out of nowhere, it's revealed that the Compton family saga is supposed to mirror the downfall of the Brits and the formation of an independent state, and we're asked to feel triumph for a native people we haven't been shown anything about. The score, too close to the Days of Our Lives theme for comfort, doesn't help. Emily Watson was nominated for Best Actress and Grant for Debut Director for the 2005 British Independent Film Awards.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
[Wide Screen, Color]

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Nicholas Hoult Ralph Compton
Emily Watson Ruby Compton
Gabriel Byrne Harry Compton
Miranda Richardson Lauren Compton
Julie Walters Gwen Traherne
Celia Imrie Lady Riva Hardwick
Fenella Woolgar June Broughton
Sid Mitchell Vernon
Zachary Fox Young Ralph

Technical Credits
Richard Grant Director,Screenwriter
Jeff Abberley Producer
Pierre Aïm Cinematographer
Julia Blackman Executive Producer
Chris Curling Co-producer
Isabelle Dedieu Editor
Patrick Doyle Score Composer
Celestia Fox Casting
Pierre Kubel Producer
Dominique Levert Sound/Sound Designer
Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar Producer
Sheena Napier Costumes/Costume Designer
Jeremy Nathan Executive Producer
Joel Phiri Executive Producer
Charlie Watson Asst. Director
Gary Williamson Production Designer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Wah-Wah
1. Where Were You? [8:15]
2. Mummy's Leaving [9:16]
3. Off to Boarding School [6:36]
4. Ruby and the Wah-Wah [10:00]
5. A Mother's Return [5:39]
6. Highs and Lows [9:16]
7. Hitting Bottom [6:36]
8. Too Much for Ruby [5:35]
9. True Intentions [10:11]
10. A Family Again [7:45]
11. Camelot [8:40]
12. A Very Rich Man [11:51]


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Wah-Wah 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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