Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
Actor Richard E. Grant has made a touching and funny movie-memoir of his 60s adolescence amongst the British diplomatic community in Swaziland in Southern Africa. His father (Gabriel Byrne) is an Education Department official driven to drink by the infidelity of a stir-crazy wife (Miranda Richardson). When he remarries a bubbly American air hostess (Emily Watson at her most irresistible), 14-year-old Ralph finds an ally: someone who thinks the English are a pack of stuffy ‘wah-wah’ spouting snobs – and someone who might enable his wildly erratic father to get over his mother. Grant’s recollections of parental fall-out are sharp and affecting, and he joshes his own youthful pretensions while making it clear that what we are seeing is indeed a portrait of an artist in the making. His observation of the end of Empire is wryly indulgent: while the African population prepare a massive cultural festival for the independence celebration, the Brits rehearse Camelot. They know it’s what they’d rather see, and they’re bloody sure Princess Margaret will feel the same way.