While comparisons could be made to Bridgerton, this historical romance film is charming in its own right.
There is no denying that the appeal of regency romances is seeing a bit of resurgence on the big screen – thanks to the popularity of Bridgerton, which has led to a new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and now of course Mr Malcolm’s List. While the script (adapted by Suzanne Allain from her own novel) is perhaps slightly lacking in sparkle, there is plenty to be enjoyed elsewhere.
The story begins when Julia Thistlewaite is taken to the opera by the wealthy eligible Jeremy Malcolm but when he spurns her, she is horrified to discover that he did this because she didn’t match up to his expectations that he has on a list in an ability to find a ‘suitable bride’. This in turn leads her to concoct a plan involving old school. friend Selina Dalton to help ensnare him by faking all the attributes on his list.
Directed by Emma Holly Jones, it has been exquisitely filmed and there are some beautiful shots to be found throughout that really make the most of the variety of locations and in terms of the tone, it is gentle and endearing throughout and you do find yourself invested in the characters created by Suzanne Allain. Yes, while it won’t set the world on fire it is still entertaining to watch thanks to wonderful characterisations and fabulous costumes on display throughout.
Allain’s script while on occasion feels as though it has a bit of satire to it (which could have been used a lot more), mainly sticks to gentle humour that doesn’t quite take off in the way you would expect and can feel a little bit flat particularly towards the end. However, it does have to be said the story and the way in which it all unfolds is well done and is certainly charming (however certain scenes such as the one at the horse auction could have been tightened up and shortened a little bit more). It places the women right at the very centre of the story and the action that it doesn’t feel like it is about Mr Malcolm at all but showing there was more to women back in the 1800’s than simply sitting back and waiting for a marriage proposal. Perhaps I’m overthinking this but it felt a little bit more refreshing to see two central characters in a historical romance taking control (even if their attempts are a little bit misguided) and tricking a man rather than the other way around makes it feel more contemporary.
It does have to be said that the cast are all on top form. In particular, Zawe Ashton as the high maintenance Julia is certainly a force to be reckoned with and you can tell that she really relishes this role – even if the chaacter does come across as spoilt and selfish in places, you can’t dislike her because she was genuinely hurt by Mr Malcolm’s rejection and as we know hurt people can make rash decisions. Freida Pinto as Selina has plenty of charm and elegance to make her ideal for historical romance films and I would love for her to do more in the future. Meanwhile, Sope Dirisu as Mr Malcolm himself has a lovely chemistry with Pinto’s Selina to make their growing relationship feel believable.
A gentle and cosy watch, but could certainly use some editing for scenes to just tighten up the story a little bit more.
By Emma Clarendon