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Review: Viceroy’s House – “Incredibly current”

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Hugh Bonneville (Lord Mountbatten) and Gillian Anderson (Edwina Mountbatten) in VICEROY’S HOUSE

Gurinder Chadha’s latest film follows the last viceroy as he goes to India to prepare the country and its leaders for independence from Britain. Of course, the conflict that has grown over centuries is hardly ready to disappear at the mere mention of independence and things are never going to be particularly straightforward – as the viceroy and his family soon discover.

The wider events of the country are looked at largely through the personal stories of the viceroy and his family, and the staff who work in the house. Many of the recognised leaders of the time are invited to the house to discuss different options for the country’s future and it’s plain to see how there is no easy way out of the mess they all find themselves in. There’s also a Muslim/Hindu relationship within the household staff that is causing stress and conflict, much like the religious divide elsewhere.

The cast all do a marvellous job, especially Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal and the late Om Puri. However, this is not really a film about the cast. It’s much, much bigger than that.

Viceroy’s House is incredibly current in its themes of independence, division and loyalty, exploring – in both a specific and wider sense – the long-term effects of hate-fuelled conflict or a general feeling of ‘us and them’. The film might be about events that took place decades ago but the themes still resonate strongly today and seeing the fallout of the conflict is incredibly shocking. The biggest shock of the film, though, might just be how little I (and, I fear, so many others) know about this period in our history. Because it belongs to all of Britain and it’s important that we get this glimpse into a time not that long ago.

This visually stunning film has the grand scale of The Crown mixed with the smaller intimacies of the characters and so much heart besides. It is well worth a watch, but one that should be followed by a trip to the library to check out some history books.

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