Don’t be fooled by the digging and the dirt, this Netflix feature is one of those rare hidden gems just waiting to be unearthed. Quintessentially English, full of charm and tenacity Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan put in star performances in a story which wavers from its main focus for a bit of titillating forbidden romance.
Set just before the commencement of World War II in Suffolk and based on the true story of the Sutton Hoo excavation of an Anglo-Saxon burial ship. Despite the synopsis for this one doing it a world of no favours, there is something quite compelling in the telling of this tale. Ralph Fiennes takes on the role of the self-taught archaeologist Basil Brown, a man, who, for many years, was forgotten as the discoverer of this very ship thanks to the British Museum and archaeologist Charles Phillips (Ken Stott) sly underhandedness of trying to erase Brown’s tireless efforts until recently.
Carey Mulligan takes on the role of Edith Pretty, a middle-class, single mother on the verge of death who hires Brown to excavate her land as she has a “feeling” something is buried deep under the mounds protruding from the ground. In fact, she was right. As Brown lacks in conversation while enjoying a bit of pipe smoking, Edith finds herself strangely drawn to the man as her health worsens. At times, there is always the question in the air of is this just a friendship or is there something more that’s trying to break through the barriers?
Soon enough, the bigwigs from London get wind of Brown’s discovery and immediately descend on the dig and take over, but every step of the way, Edith makes sure her stubbornness shines through to insist on Brown taking the lead and getting the recognition he duly deserves. With the introduction of the London crew, the story goes on a bit of a tangent with the arrival of Lily James as Margaret. A newbie to the world of archaeology who tags along with her sexually confused husband (Ben Chaplin) who finds married life is not what it cracks up to be and falls for Johnny Flynn’s Rory, a fictional cousin of Edith and a bit of a photographer.
As the latter part of the film potters and meanders through the truly British, let’s hide our feelings, love story, it fills more like duck filled padding to stretch out the story and doesn’t really have any place in what was already a compelling story.
The film hits Netflix January 29th