I’ll admit it, the cynic in me went into Viceroy’s House expecting a half-baked attempt at recapturing the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies; a culture clash picture that would aim to capatalise on the older audience of the aforementioned films. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find that, whilst admittedly forgettable – I even almost forgot I had this review to to write – this is an efficient and rather powerful telling of an incredible true story.
Much like the recent works of Amma Asante (A United Kingdom, Belle), Gurinder Chadha’s most personal work to date manages to tell a story that is altogether political and romantic. The two are balanced in perfect harmony, using the relationship between the film’s two love interests, Jeet Kumar and Aalia Noor, a Hindu and Muslim respectively, as a window into the partition that occurred as a result of India’s independence.
It’s a brilliantly clever idea of Chadha’s to tell the story in this way, one which easily appeals to a wide audience and one which puts the complicated politics of the story into a context that’s easy to understand. However, as can be seen quite boldly on the film’s poster, this aspect is sadly underdeveloped in comparison to that of the new Viceroy and his family who are charged with carrying out the transition from Britain rule to Indian Independence.
That’s not to say that this particular aspect is less interesting – far from it. The depiction of the way in which Viceroy Mountbatten is manipulated and pushed by the British government for a particular outcome is angering, revelatory and compelling. Equally, Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson are effortlessly wonderful in their respective roles.
On the subject of Anderson, the fact that her character is written with more depth than that of the supporting wife role – if anything, she is portrayed as more of a ‘political animal’ than her Viceroy husband – is just another of the film’s highlights.
With all of this in mind, it’s a shame that the individual elements that work so well, fail to do so when combined. One can’t help but think that, with a tighter script, this could have been elevated from just-okay to something much more memorable. As it stands, though, Viceroy’s House is a solid bit of work which is handsome enough and moving enough to warrant checking it out. There’s no denying it’s good, but it isn’t quite good enough to leave any long-lasting impression.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com