A very polite and British love triangle emerges between two friends (Dominic Cooper; Captain America: The First Avenger, and Dan Stevens; Downton Abbey) and a young aspiring artist who is new in town (Emily Browning; Sleeping Beauty). The story takes place sometime around the early 20th century in the English countryside, while Browning’s character is charmed and seduced by her new male friends, whom she is trying to draw inspiration from and define her own existence.
It’s interesting watching this movie just a day after Robin Williams’ apparent suicide. I don’t know if Florence’s depression would have come across to me had it not been on my mind already. The presentation of her condition is very subtle as she makes passing comments about being happy one moment and “bored” the next. Bored isn’t a common expression for people who feel depressed, but it’s been my experience that it can be a symptom of a full-on anxiety attack. Given this aspect of the film, I find it very interesting that the story being told takes place over a century ago. Even with the separation in time period, the film makes a very poignant comment on how little we understand about depression and its varied effects on its victim’s psyche. Browning does a great job of playing Florence with just a hint of sadness that comes and goes. In those moments, a single line or glance offers the audience so much about her character. It’s very effective.
Dominic Cooper is very much playing his typical character here. He tends to be drawn to flashy, arrogant, brilliant characters, and A.J. is no exception. He’s a womanizer and determined to marry Florence, but has a dark side that hides just beneath the surface. This dark side is hinted at early on by his recitation of Edgar Allen Poe poems.
Dan Stevens is also very in his element with this character. I’ve only seen Stevens on Downton Abbey, and his role of Gilbert here is nearly identical. Even though his character on Downton is a wealthy aristocrat, he constantly resists being pulled into that world, making him exactly as worldly and modest as Gilbert is here. I look forward to seeing Stevens break out of his shell and do something a bit more unconventional in the future, but for now he’s sticking with what works for him, and doing it very well.
The only special feature is an interview with Dan Stevens. Available now on DVD from Cinedigm.