Wetherby (1985)

“I thought I could get over it — but now, everywhere, the darkness beckons.”

Synopsis:
When a mysterious young man (Tim McInnerny) shows up at her house after a dinner party with friends (Ian Holm, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, and Marjorie Yates) and shoots himself, a schoolteacher (Vanessa Redgrave) reminsces on her past as a young woman (Joely Richardson) dating a soldier (Robert Hines) about to head off to war. Meanwhile, a detective (Stuart Wilson) attempts to unravel the mystery of the suicide, in part by sending a young college acquaintance (Suzanna Hamilton) of McInnerny to Redgrave’s house for a visit.

Genres:

Review:
Playwright David Hare wrote and directed this enigmatic flashback mystery about the entangled lives of a spinster teacher (Redgrave) and an odd young man (McInnerny) who commits bloody suicide in front of her for no apparent reason. It’s truly difficult to know where the plot will go from moment to moment, given the asynchronous timeline, the gradual unveiling of how the various players know one another, and the (intentional) lack of full clarity around certain characters’ motivations. It’s clear that Redgrave is still mourning the loss of her youthful lover (Hines); that she believes in (or craves) uninhibited passion; and that she’s almost eerily accepting of whatever life sends her way. Wilson, on the other hand, is oddly determined to get to the cause of McInnerny’s actions, even when his obsession compromises his own romantic relationship. McInnerny is perhaps (not surprisingly) the biggest enigma — and the inclusion of how McInnerny’s college acquaintance (Hamilton) suddenly impacts Redgrave’s life is an intriguing narrative choice. Ultimately, this character-driven film will be most enjoyed by those who enjoy literary screenplays with much to chew on and few direct “answers”. As DVD Savant writes in his laudatory review: “The strength of the show is that the behaviors of its characters are so interesting, we don’t mind that the loose ends of the mystery do not neatly resolve themselves. Learning more about these people is reward enough.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine performances across the board

  • Stuart Harris’s cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s strongly recommended if you enjoy this type of film.

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One Response to “Wetherby (1985)”

  1. A once-must – for the very reasons brought out in the assessment, which should be enough to confirm why film fanatics need to take note.

    The genuine film fanatic mind – I feel – is one that is (perhaps more than) fairly eclectic, more receptive than that of the average film watcher, and generally crosses genres and genre-bending films fairly easily…as long as the content of a film has a stand-out distinction of some kind or is at a certain level of quality. The fanatic is most likely to enjoy ‘the stretch’, esp. if it is an enriching experience.

    ~as this film is.

    I’m pretty much in agreement with the assessment and have little to add – except to say that I think the film is more or less impeccable, and admirable in all of its aspects. I will also add that, given the film’s structure, one is likely to appreciate it more on a second viewing.

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