Tressa Price selects her Five Essential British Romances of the Nineties and Noughties…
5. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001 dir, Sharon Maguire)
Total escapist romance. Just imagine being torn between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Bridget, played by Renee Zellweger with an impeccable British accent, has to choose between her disreputable, unreliable and sexy boss Daniel (Grant) and dependable, reliable and down to earth but equally sexy Darcy (Firth). Along the way Bridget has a number of embarrassing hilarious adventures that eventually lead her into the arms of the right man.
Wonderful escapism that actually delivers the comedy. It was a pleasure to see men fighting over a real woman (Bridget has weight, chocolate and wine issues).
4. Love Actually (2003 dir, Richard Curtis)
Romantic, funny, sad, sexy, quirky, and at times excruciatingly embarrassing (see Bill Nighy’s hilarious turn as an ageing rock star). This film features a powerhouse cast of British talent - Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson to name but a few - and a varied mix of linked stories. The way the stories were joined through various characters was cleverly done and although at times the stories felt a bit staged and deliberately manipulated, this is redeemed through its charm and feel good romance.
There is a clear message running throughout the film - Love is all around and it comes in many shapes and forms - a message that Richard Curtis to my delight seems to be intent on repeating throughout much of his admirable work.
Curtis appears to have a great number of British acting talents willing to appear in his films and this just increases my pleasure in watching entertaining stories being told by a talented ensemble cast.
3. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994 dir, Mike Newell)
Screenplay by Richard Curtis. I mention this because the film clearly has Curtis throughout.. Multiple stories run throughout the film and are linked by the slow starting romance between the two main characters played by Hugh Grant as Charles and Andie MacDowell as Carrie.
Four Weddings is a feel good, humorous film celebrating love in all forms. We meet a wonderful array of diverse characters which provide the film with gentle, laugh out loud, embarrassing comic moments, drama and romance. There is a wonderful happy ever after for our main characters but it has a very modern twist to it.
Richard Curtis cleverly repeated the many story formula in Love Actually and the song ‘Love is All Around’ which was featured in Four Weddings was comically amended for Love Actually.
2. Persuasion (1995 dir, Roger Michell)
An intelligent book to film adaptation and my favourite version. Persuasion is my best-loved Austen story and this film did not disappoint. Anne (played by Amanda Root) found the love of her life, Frederick Wentworth (played by Ciaran Hinds) when young but was persuaded not to marry because he did not have enough money to support her. The film begins around 8 years later as Wentworth reappears and is in search of a wife. He is a handsome rich sea captain. Meanwhile, Anne has grown older and fully realises the consequences of not marrying when young. She realises she is past the age of marrying and as a result is cast in the shadow of her selfish older sister and pompous father.
The film cleverly reflects the idea of lost opportunity through the use of colour. Neutral colours are used a lot to give an understated even pessimistic feel. The use of green’s and brown’s give an autumnal feel suggesting Ann has past her summer years and must resign herself to spinsterhood.
The resulting re-introduction and gradual growing affection between Wentworth and Anne is gently told with touches of humour. Wentworth is still angry at being jilted and treats Anne with a simmering angry courtesy which eventually leads to a full declaration of love in a letter to Anne as Wentworth realises he still passionately loves Anne.
Persuasion is a mature thoughtful film portraying love between two older and wiser people (Anne would certainly have been considered past her prime at the age of 27 in Regency times). Anne and Wentworth are so movingly played that it is quite possible to fall in love with them and to imagine what their lives will be like when the film closes. The film is complemented by a wonderful music score and impressive scenery.
1. Atonement (2007 dir, Joe Wright)
I usually like my romance light, happy and comical. This film delivers the complete opposite with such power that I was drawn in immediately and watched transfixed until the end.
Keira Knightly as Celia and James McAvoy as Robbie were passionate as the young thwarted lovers and I found myself following their story avidly throughout the film. Celia’s younger sister Briony tells a life changing lie at the age of 13 that divides the young lovers. The film follows the lives of all involved in the consequences of the lie. Cut to Briony’s older self, played by the sublime Vanessa Redgrave, who did not get much screen time. In the time she did get, she delivered such a powerful performance that I was left in tears at the end of it and the twist, involving Briony at last telling the truth, delivered by Redgrave was so unexpected and powerfully delivered that I was left speechless and crying.
Atonement is a film I will revisit. It boasts a top quality British cast, delivers a startling, unexpected emotional jolt and the period detail was so detailed and accurate that it was beautiful to watch.
The English Patient (1996, dir, Anthony Minghella)
Shadowlands (1993, dir, Richard Attenborough)
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004, dir, Beeban Kidron)
Notting Hill (1999, dir, Roger Michell)
Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990, dir, Anthony Minghella)