2 Best Movies to Watch by Teresa Churcher

Staff & contributors

Gosford Park inspired screenwriter Julian Fellowes to create Downton Abbey — but don’t let that association fool you, because this is no quaint, sentimental period drama but a scalding satire of 1930s England class relations (even though Maggie Smith does play a withering dowager countess here, too). Robert Altman, master orchestrator of ensembles, assembled a banquet of performers here, including Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Charles Dance as the well-to-do attendees of a hunting party on a grand estate. Working furiously to meet their every whim is the house’s domestic staff, played by such talents as Emily Watson, Helen Mirren, Kelly Macdonald, and Clive Owen.

The murder comes over an hour into the film, which ought to tell you about its real focus (Altman actually called Gosford Park a “who cares whodunnit”). In place of Agatha Christie-style intrigue is brilliant characterization and storytelling. Even at 137 minutes, 30-plus characters mean time is of the essence, but Altman and his actors miraculously find a way to convey a deep sense of each person — especially those downstairs. This tangle of rich lives never gets overwhelming, though, because Gosford Park is expertly paced. It’s nothing less than a joy to sit back and experience the masterful unraveling of its many threads, each more revelatory than the last.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Alan Bates, Bob Balaban, Camilla Rutherford, Charles Dance, Claudie Blakley, Clive Owen, Derek Jacobi, Eileen Atkins, Emily Watson, Emma Buckley, Finty Williams, Frances Low, Frank Thornton, Geraldine Somerville, Gregor Henderson-Begg, Helen Mirren, James Wilby, Jeremy Northam, Jeremy Swift, Joanna Maude, John Atterbury, Kelly Macdonald, Kristin Scott Thomas, Laura Harling, Laurence Fox, Leo Bill, Lucy Cohu, Maggie Smith, Meg Wynn Owen, Michael Gambon, Natalie Danks-Smith, Natasha Wightman, Richard E. Grant, Ron Webster, Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Flind, Sophie Thompson, Stephen Fry, Teresa Churcher, Tom Hollander, Trent Ford

Director: Robert Altman

Rating: R

Testament of Youth isn’t totally unique. Plenty of period dramas, even those that are true to life, have a similar approach of capturing the loveliness of a teenage summer vacation to better juxtapose the ugliness of war and how terrible it is to put young adults through it at a time when they should be exploring their lives. But it’s not terribly made– the film gets better as it goes, Max Richter’s excellent score is captivating, and there’s a certain novelty of watching the fresh faces of some of Britain’s biggest actors, even if their better known works have eclipsed this film. Testament of Youth may not be as devastating as war films like Atonement, but it’s a fairly decent watch, if you’re specifically craving for a period drama you haven’t watched before.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Alexandra Roach, Alicia Vikander, Anna Chancellor, Charlotte Hope, Colin Morgan, Daisy Waterstone, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Hayley Atwell, Heather Nicol, Henry Garrett, Jenn Murray, Joanna Scanlan, Jonathan Bailey, Josh Taylor, Kit Harington, Laura Elsworthy, Miranda Richardson, Naomi Everson, Niamh Cusack, Nicholas Farrell, Nicholas Le Prevost, Taron Egerton, Teresa Churcher, Xavier Atkins

Director: James Kent

Rating: PG-13