Carrington treats its audience to the visual, literary and performative period pleasures associated with that critically despised but highly exportable British product, the heritage film, while pointedly seeking to distance itself, through various strategies, from the supposed conservatism these films were so often condemned for in the 80s and early 90s, particularly their innate escapism, and their promotion of a conservative, bourgeois, pastoral, “English” national identity.
In my view Carrington mostly fails in this endeavor, at times revealing a self-righteous hypocrisy equivalent to that of many of its Bloomsbury subjects, while Richard III is more successful.
When [Richard Loncraine] invited me to see the first rough-cut of Richard III at the studios of Interact in west London a month after shooting, I relished the double irony of the Al Jolson song which he had overlaid on the final frame of his film. Richmond and Richard simultaneously feel, in the moment their fates collide, that they are sitting on top of the world.
McKellen's remarks suggest that the song was not part of the initial conception of the scene, and that McKellen at least may have been unaware of the Cagney parallel (McKellen 1996:286).