A Midwinter's Tale

A Midwinter's Tale

Streaming Video - 1996
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Kenneth Branagh writes and directs a comic tale about an out-of-work actor's desperate attempt to salvage his career and his life by staging a production of Hamlet. Lacking time and money to do the play justice, he hires a motley cast of drunks, incompetents, oddballs and an aging female impersonator to play Queen Gertrude. Now, through backstage dramas, inevitable disasters and the occasional triumph, this cast of would-be losers strives to create theater magic in only three weeks!


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Well written, directed, photographed, edited and acted quiet British film from Kenneth Branagh. The story is in the "Let's Put On A Play" tradition, ostensibly to perform Hamlet in a quiet English town over the Christmas holidays (although there's not much in the way of Christmas ambiance in the film beyond the timeline). Nothing really new in terms of that but Branagh writes great characters and each gets a chance to develop their role, both as a character and as an actor performing Hamlet. There's not a lot of Hamlet actually performed, but Branagh interlaces enough of the play into his own story to augment the original plot. Very often very funny (even slapstick) but also at times unsuspectingly poignant and touching. It's filmed in black and white and each scene is carefully framed and shot, with multiple scenes often working within one. The transfer to DVD is well done. This is a film that bears repeated watching.

Nov 30, 2016

You might not care for this movie if you've never read *Hamlet*, participated in shoestring-budget theatre, or don't like British humor.

Even if you *don't* like those things in general, this movie is hysterical. Every actor is convincing, especially the wonderful Julia Sawalha. It's a comedy of theatrical manners (and mannerisms) -- a first-rate backstage story.

Jennifer Saunder's brief appearance at the end is particularly hilarious. I never knew she did impersonations. This one is so spot-on, I had to rewind to find out what she had said. It took about 3 syllables for me to recognize her target, and I was laughing too loud at Saunders's perfection to absorb the actual words.

Wonderful movie. I'm so glad it's out on DVD!


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