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Seven friends in an acting troupe graduate from Cambridge University in 1982 and go their separate ways. Ten years later, Peter inherits a large estate from his father, and invites the rest of the gang to spend New Year's holiday with him. Many changes have taken place in the lives of all the friends assembled, but Peter has a secret that will shock them all. Written by
Liza Esser <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film takes place on December 31, 1982 and from December 30, 1992 to January 1, 1993. See more »
The film is set in 1992, by which time British Rail had long since stopped steam rail services. Either Peter's house happens to be on a heritage line, or a steam train was added to make the UK appear pleasingly old-fashioned for US audiences. See more »
[giving Vera a £5 note as a bribe]
Why don't you do me a baked potato, steam me a few carrots and grill me a piece of chicken without the skin?
Vera , Paul's Mom:
[returning the £5 note]
Why don't you go down to the shops, buy whatever you want and cook it yourself?
Did you never see "Upstairs, Downstairs"?
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Not being able to like the characters was a bit of a problem but generally it is well written and engaging
It has been just about ten years since Peter last saw his group of University friends and, after his father died, he has inherited the family manor and decided to throw a reunion party for them. Of his friends, Sarah is still pretty much the same and has brought along her latest lover with her. Andrew has long ago sold out and moved to America where he met his wife Carol. Roger and Mary are married but life lives of quiet panic and worry since the death of one of their twin babies. Maggie meanwhile is so alone that she throws herself into the slightest offer of companionship. The friends come together but the tensions and problems are barely hidden and quickly come out.
Opening with the type of privately educated people that I personally find very difficult to relate to, this film immediately had me on the backfoot and worried thanks to this and the sheer volume of luvvies in the cast. However the film manages to get past this for me because the writing is better than the very basic sitcom-come-melodrama that it is only ever a few steps away from being. It goes just where you expect it to though, and the fact that all the wheels fall off the various friends' lives will not surprise anyone but it is interesting and engaging enough. The sense of humour is quiet upper-class and it is sometimes hard to get into the characters because I did get the impression that they were very aloof but it was still solid enough to keep things moving.
The cast work well and indeed many of them have a background that is similar to their characters (in terms of University I mean, not the personal detail). Fry is good although I must admit not caring much for his character. Branagh does a so-so job as director (nothing particularly special) and also as actor he isn't that good here his drunk act in particular being weak. Continuing the split responsibilities = weakness trend, writer Rudner is not great in her acting role. Laurie is strong but he is outdone by a convincing little turn from Staunton. Thompson is good even if her character could have been made more of. Emmanuel is good but only shows me how hard it is for black actors to get ahead she has barely been seen again. Slattery is Slattery and those who like him will like him here I don't but that is by the by.
Overall this is an engaging film despite the fact that I found the characters hard to like. The story may not be the most inspiring or shocking but it is involving nonetheless and comic if not really funny. A very British affair that is generally well written despite the rather pretentious and aloof material that runs across story, characters and performers.
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