Posy Simmonds’ acclaimed graphic novel Tamara Drewe becomes an entertaining rustic romp in the hands of director Stephen Frears and a spot-on cast of rising home-grown stars and stalwart character actors.
Gemma Arterton is perfect as the eponymous heroine, a beautiful metropolitan journalist who causes emotional havoc when she returns to her childhood home in a quiet Dorset village. A one-time ugly duckling turned gorgeous swan thanks to a nose job, Tamara soon has three very different men vying for her affections – Luke Evans’s lovelorn handyman, Dominic Cooper’s preening rock star and Roger Allam’s philandering novelist.
The cheating author’s long-suffering but willfully blind wife, splendidly played by Tamsin Greig, channels her frustrations into baking cakes, breeding Buff Orpington hens and running a writers’ retreat from their home, while bored local teenagers Jody and Casey (Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christy) watch all the shenanigans from the sidelines, and even have a fateful hand in the course of events with their secret meddling.
First serialised in The Guardian, Posy Simmonds’ tightly plotted, shrewdly observed and slyly satirical story is a deft updating of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd to the modern era of emails, texts and “papping” celebs on mobile phones.
Frears’ screen version slightly coarsens Simmonds’ wit and softens her sharpness (sparing one character a grisly fate), but even if his film manages to be more cartoony than the original cartoons, it remains hugely enjoyable.
And at a time when British cinema seems to be almost entirely populated by hoodies or geezers, it’s refreshing to see a film with a broader social canvas.
Released on DVD & Blu-ray by Momentum Pictures on 28th March.