Ponette


Starring Victoire Thivisol, Xavier Beauvois.

**** (out of five)

ALTHOUGH it has been widely studied, most famously by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and although its dynamics are predictable, grieving is an intensely personal act and no two people experience it the same way. The British film Mrs. Brown and the French film Ponette, contain rich images of how two women - one old, one young - respond to their loss and move towards acceptance of a reality that they cannot change.

Mrs. Brown, a BBC production, tells the story of Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) after the death of her beloved Albert. Not only the queen, but the entire royal household has been plunged into her inconsolable grief: mealtimes are silent, conversation is clipped, the predictable anger is just below the surface and rises to the fore with the slightest provocation. Her staff, frustrated by Victoria's inability to move beyond her grief, appeal to one of Prince Albert's former menservants, John Brown.

Brown quickly sizes up the situation. After initially receiving the cold shoulder from the queen, is able to capture her interest and imagination so that she moves beyond her sadness into a new life revolving around Mr. Brown. So enthusiastically does she embrace her new found zeal for life that her relationship with Brown becomes the occasion for scandal, almost causing a constitutional crisis. When Prime Minster Benjamin Disraeli seeks to clarify the nature of the queen's relationship with Brown, Victoria's grief has almost completely passed, and she is able, once more, to return to her responsibilities and become again the country's queen.

Directed by John Madden, Mrs. Brown is a showcase for some of Britain finest performers. As Victoria, Dench is magnificent.

She captures the stern, brooding Victoria that looks at us through the pictures in history books; but she breathes into her portrayal of the queen a liveliness - even in her grief - and a humanity that is too often neglected when the "Victorian" era is remembered. Dench's angry Victoria is a sight to behold: watch for her walking down a hallway, stern faced, earrings swinging side to side, to know what angry means!

Scottish comedian Billy Connolly plays Brown, at first all swagger and tartan, but by the film's end a complex man, devoted to his queen, misunderstood by the royal household, and proud to serve until the end. …

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