Film Review – THE DUKE (2020)

THE DUKE (2020, UK, 96m, 12) ****
Biography, Comedy
dist. Pathe UK (UK), Sony Pictures Classics (USA); pr co. Pathe UK / Ingenious Media / Screen Yorkshire / Neon Films; d. Roger Michell; w. Richard Bean, Clive Coleman; pr. Nicky Bentham; ph. Mike Eley (Colour | 2.39:1); m. George Fenton; ed. Kristina Hetherington; pd. Kristian Milsted; ad. Adam Tomlinson.
cast: Jim Broadbent (Kempton Bunton), Helen Mirren (Dorothy Bunton), Fionn Whitehead (Jackie Bunton), Matthew Goode (Jeremy Hutchinson QC), Aimée Kelly (Irene Boslover), Craig Conway (Mr Walker), Simon Hubbard (PC Myton), Jack Bandeira (Kenny Bunton), Heather Craney (Debbie – Clerk of the Court), Cliff Burnett (Wilf), Ashley Kumar (Javid Akram), Charlie Richmond (PO Official 1), James Wilby (Judge Aarvold), John Heffernan (Neddie Cussen), Michael Mather (Eddie), Anna Maxwell Martin (Mrs Gowling), Michael Hodgson (Barry Spence), Richard McCabe (Rab Butler), Andrew Havill (Sir Philip Hendy), Val McLane (Freda).
Delightfully performed story of Kempton Bunton (Broadbent), a 60-year-old taxi driver, who in 1961 stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. He sent ransom notes saying that he would return the painting on the condition that the government invested more in care for the elderly. Broadbent is superb as the likeable and funny campaigner whilst Mirren is equally impressive as his long-suffering wife. A subplot involving the death of their teenage daughter a few years earlier adds a level of pathos and gives the characterisations some depth. The court scenes in the film’s final act give Broadbent his moment in the spotlight and are hilarious. 1960s Newcastle is splendidly captured in all its grit and grime by cinematographer Eley and production designer Milsted. This comedy-drama is a fitting final film for director Michell.