MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
I do not consider myself an Anglophile, but I have many friends who are happy to spend countless hours watching television shows and films from across the pond. The British can tell stories in oddly appealing ways that manage to combine pathos, humor, and history. This past year alone I posted positive reviews of Misbehavior and Military Wives. Neither movie is a classic, but both succeeded in their efforts to entertain while sharing interesting stories set in Great Britain’s past.
The Dig is the latest example of British comfort food, and it is a hearty meal. Based on John Preston’s novel (which takes place in 1939), it tells the story of Edith Pretty (Mulligan), a recent widow, who hires Basil Brown (Fiennes), a self-taught “excavator”, to explore some of the mounds on her extensive Sussex country estate, in hopes of finding archeological treasure. As their project is beginning to take off, England is preparing for war with Germany. Soldiers march by and warplanes fly overhead. Edith’s health is beginning to wane; this project is giving her something to believe in. Her young son Robert (Archie Barnes) is happy to hang around the dig and shadow Mr. Brown and the other amateur townsfolk who are recruited to assist.
Of course, the British Museum is keen to take over the exploration as their own, but they are put off by Mrs. Pretty who claims that since the mounds are on her property, she has the right to hire whoever she pleases. Eventually the activity gains wide interest, bringing in Charles Phillips (Ken Stott), a professional archeologist, assisted by Stuart and Peggy Piggott (Ben Chaplin and Lily James) and Edith’s cousin Rory (Johnny Flynn).
As Stuart and Peggy’s marriage begins to diminish in ardor, sparks begin to fly between Peggy and Rory. This subplot drags things down a bit and moves the story toward cheesy romance novel shenanigans.
Fortunately, the platonic friendship and mutual admiration of upper crust Edith and working-class Basil is the engine that drives the train. It’s always nice to see a film that envisions a world in which class distinctions fall away. It’s a fantasy, but it is a nice thing to imagine.
If you are expecting to learn much about archeology by watching this movie, you will be in for a disappointing two hours. But if you want to lose yourself in an enjoyable movie that is well-acted and beautifully filmed ...
(Pause for rim shot)
... you may dig this!
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: Just the kind of uplifting comfort food from Great Britain that we need at this time.
Two pitchforks: Some muted scenes involving sexual activities; smoking; offscreen war activities.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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