Sunday 25 September 2022

REVIEW: The Duke (2022) - Starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren

Review by Jon Donnis
I have had The Duke ready to review for a while now, but just had either too much on, or other films ahead of it in the queue, and after finally getting round to seeing the film, I am rather annoyed with myself for not watching it sooner! I even recently ran a competition for the Home Entertainment release.

The year is 1961, Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent) is a 60-year-old taxi driver from Newcastle and self-educated man. The film starts with Kempton in the dock at Court Number 1 at the Old Bailey, he is accused of stealing Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. He pleads not guilty, and we are then taken back 6 months to the spring of 1961.

Kempton sends a script to the BBC, it is rejected, soon after he is jailed for 13 days for watching TV without paying for a TV Licence. He refuses to pay for one, as part of his campaign against pensioners having to pay, and as part of his beliefs about supporting the working-class man.

Jackie Bunton (Fionn Whitehead) meets his dad Kempton upon his release, and on the way home they stop by the grave of Jackie's sister who was killed in a bicycle accident when she was just 18. Kempton blames himself as he got her the bike.

Dorothy Bunton (Helen Mirren), Kempton's wife, works as a home maker and babysitter for a local councillor and his wife. 

One day Kempton is fired from his Taxi driver job, after he gave a free ride to an WW1 veteran. As part of his campaign for the working man, as well as drum up interest in his scripts, he convinces Dorothy to allow him to go to London for 2 days, and if he does not succeed he will give up writing and activism and instead settle down and get a job.

An unknown man is seen stealing Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington, and when Kempton returns to Newcastle, he and Jackie have the painting and hide it in a wardrobe.

What follows is a fun, light hearted drama, about a good man, trying to do good, and seeing himself as something of a Robin Hood figure. He sends a ransom note to the Government saying he will return the painting if pensioners get free TV licenses.

Based on a true story, this is a very Northern story, I imagine that non-Brits will struggle to understand the strong accents. With that said, I really enjoyed the film, and I am a fan of Northern accents. Jim Broadbent is really strong as the likeable and at times funny Kempton, and Helen Mirren is great as the long-suffering wife, who just wants a simple life.

The Good
A light hearted drama that really hits home, a really nice look at 1960s Newcastle, and with a strong performance by Jim Broadbent there is nothing not to like about this film.

The Bad
The actual theft of the painting is the least important part of the film, so perhaps some people might be disappointed at not getting more of a heist type film.

A really enjoyable film, with great characters and a feel-good ending.
I highly recommend The Duke.

Out now on Apple TV