Glorious indeed.  This is a wholly original, impeccable new film from writer/director Stephen Poliakoff.  A stunning cast illuminates a finite moment in English history — the summer of 1939, on the eve of the unthinkable.  

The story centers on the Keyes family, and is told from the point of view of the eldest daughter, Anne (played by the incomparable Romola Garai).  The Keyes patriarch is a well-respected Minister of Parliament and of minor aristocracy.  Anne and her brother and sister throw their beloved father (Bill Nighy) a birthday party, which devolves into a political debate that rankles the family.

Northam speaks his unpopular opinion.

Intelligent, strong and curious, Anne begins to question England position of Appeasement and the wisdom of Neville Chamberlain.   A busy, popular film actress, she has to return to set, but cannot shake the suspicious things she begins to notice.  Then, when friends begin dying under mysterious circumstances, she starts to fear the worst.  Glorious 39 explores perception versus reality and how it affects day to day life.

I desperately do not want to give away too much.  I knew very little when I saw it and its deliberate unfolding is intense.  While it features historical figures and issues, it is at its heart an incredibly suspenseful movie.  The viewer learns things as our heroine does, and thus we are just as much in the dark.  And just as wonderfully, Anne’s character is anything but useless.  She is smart, spunky, and vigorous.  Garai absolutely nails this character and her performance should be lauded.  This is the second time that Nighy has played her father and their pairing is so special.  I’d be hard-pressed at this point to believe anyone claiming to be Garai’s actual father.

Nighy and Garai – a father daughter moment.

Suspense, intrigue, mystery, fantastic writing, beautiful photography and lovely performances all converge here.  Look also for supporting roles with Julie Christie and Christopher Lee, both legends of the screen as well.  It may not be your typical period piece, but it is an amazing piece of filmmaking.  Add it to your list.


As far as I know, it never enjoyed a theatrical release in the US.  It has only just been released on DVD and is available on Netflix.

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: GLORIOUS 39 (2011)”

  1. Sorry to hear you didn't love it as much as I did. It is certainly not your "typical" movie. I found it quite haunting and it has very much stuck with me. I believe one is supposed to have the "I don't know what to think" after it. It mirrors how she must have felt — and others in that very strange time in history.
    Thanks for reading!

  2. I have just seen the movie. I agree with you that Romola Garai did a great job. I loved the scene where she is screaming. I don't know how, but the movie gave me a bit of a "I don't know what to think about this movie"-feeling afterwards. Though I generally liked it, it was perhaps a bit vague and meh. I read some reviews and they weren't very good either.

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