In Glorious 39, Stephen Poliakoff’s magnificent return to cinema, Jeremy Northam plays the shadowy and sinister figure of Balcombe. He might not have that much screen time but he makes use of every second he’s given and ensures that his presence is felt throughout the film.
Glorious 39 tells the story of the aristocratic Keyes family and their attempt to cling to their way of privileged way life on the eve of the outbreak of World War II. The story centres on the eldest adopted daughter, Anne, who stumbles upon some sinister recordings and is drawn into a web of dark secrets and finds herself in increasing danger from a powerful and menacing enemy.
Romola Garai plays Anne, Bill Nighy her father. Julie Christie her aunt, and Eddie Redmayne and Juno Temple her siblings. Jenny Agutter, Hugh Bonneville, Charlie Cox, David Tennant, Corin Redgrave and Christopher Lee complete the stellar cast.
The film was released in the UK in November 2009 and on DVD in the UK from March 29th, 2010. It was due to screen at the Palm Springs Film Festival on January 12th, 2010 but no Region 1 DVD release date has been announced yet.
The screenplay is also available from good bookshops and online at both amazon.co.uk and amazon.com. Again, you can buy a copy through the site Store most appropriate for you.
Here’s what JeremyNortham.net thought of the film:
We went to see Glorious 39 at the Odeon in Cardiff Bay. There weren’t that many people in the cinema with us but some had driven from Bath (about an hour away) to see it in Cardiff. The film was on an exceptionally limited release and no one in the cinema had a blurb about it on their screens. The staff asked me before I went in what it was about, as people had been asking and they’d been unable to tell them! That’s kind of frustrating because I think more people would have gone to see it if (a) they had known about it and what it was about and (b) if it had had a wider release.
I thought it was absolutely wonderful and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have to admit that I like Poliakoff’s work anyway, but what with the somewhat mixed and luke-warm reviews, I had been steeling myself for disappointment. Not necessary. It was every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be.
The film’s excellent, spellbinding, compelling and tensely claustrophobic. A real psychological thriller. The stellar cast is just brilliant. I actually thought Romola Garai was very good, especially seeing as how she had to carry the film. She was in practically every scene. I didn’t think she over-acted or was too theatrical when you bear in mind that her character is an actress. I think she pitched it about right. Bill Nighy who plays her father is key, too. He is very good. Julie Christie, Juno Temple, Eddie Redmayne and Charlie Cox were all great in their parts.
And Jeremy? Well, the good news is that he’s in more of the film than I thought he would be and, not wanting to give too much away about the plot, he is a still, malevolent presence throughout. I can see why comparisons to Wigram have been made but he plays a character who is far more than an older version of Wigram. Their characters might have worked in the same department, perhaps, but there the similarity ends, I feel. His scenes are brief but peppered throughout the film so just when you’re wondering where he was, he appeared again.