Director John Boorman’s comic memoir of postwar days as an unwilling conscript in the British Army is steeped in bittersweet nostalgia for misspent youth, first love and a Britain that faced the future by clinging to the past.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
At 82 John Boorman, British director of such Hollywood classics as Point Blank and Deliverance, picks up the autobiographical thread left dangling at the end of Hope and Glory to deliver this funny, richly nostalgic portrait of the artist as a young and unenthusiastic conscript in the British Army. It’s the early 50s and Britain is still recovering from the last war. The possibility that the next one looms in Korea is the only thing that Bill (charming Callum Turner) and his rebellious mate, Percy (Caleb Landry Jones), find remotely serious about having landed in the army. Happily they never get further than a Home Counties barracks, where they engage in exasperated and increasingly fiendish struggle with the mindlessly officious Sgt Major Bradley – the brilliant David Thewlis. Richard E. Grant is their superior, the aptly named Major Cross. Outside the barracks, at classical music concerts, in smoky cinemas and society parties there are lessons to be learned about love.
The tone is gently comedic and Boorman taps into an intense mixture of nostalgia and dismay for an era when Great Britain was still clinging to class hierarchies, duty and repression.
“Queen and Country is the film of an old master who still has one of the most magical eyes in the business… Age has not slackened his famous command of tempo or diminished his ability to draw bold, vivid performances from his cast (Thewlis is especially alarming, and moving), but it has deepened his rueful sympathy for the follies of the young.” — Stuart Klawans, The Nation