The Last September

Theatrical auteur Deborah Warner makes her feature-film directorial debut with an adaptation of Elizabeth Bowen's novel about the end of a class and its way of life, specifically the Anglo-Irish aristocracy in Ireland. County Cork, 1920: The mammoth country home of Sir Richard Naylor (Michael Gambon) and his wife, Lady Myra (Maggie Smith), is an oasis of...read more

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Reviewed by Steve Simels
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Theatrical auteur Deborah Warner makes her feature-film directorial debut with an adaptation of Elizabeth Bowen's novel about the end of a class and its way of life, specifically the Anglo-Irish aristocracy in Ireland. County Cork, 1920: The

mammoth country home of Sir Richard Naylor (Michael Gambon) and his wife, Lady Myra (Maggie Smith), is an oasis of security and privilege. But outside, Irish rebels are engaged in a small-scale but brutal battle against the British army. The Naylors, we soon realize, are in denial about all this,

and the film spends most of its time observing the way their carefully constructed facade begins to crumble. Among the agents of change are a small horde of house guests and relatives with hidden agendas, including cynical fortune hunter Marda Norton (Fiona Shaw), who sets a negative example for

the Naylors' willful young niece Lois (Keeley Hawes); and Lois's childhood friend Peter Connolly (Gary Lydon), a fugitive freedom fighter who eventually upends their world with a horrific act of violence. This is all rather less dramatic than it sounds; we are, of course, in Merchant Ivory

territory, which insures a level of emotional constipation that won't be to everyone's taste. In fact, all the film's characters are completely repressed and stiff-upper-lipped, incapable of saying what they really mean. They also have an unpleasant (if vaguely comic opera-like) penchant for

spying on each other, a plot device Warner misguidedly flogs as visual metaphor; the result is far too many artsy behind-the-fireplace/through-the-wagon-wheel POV shots. If you can get past all that, however, the acting is generally quite accomplished. And there's a certain built-in poignance to

the end-of-an-era proceedings here, regardless of how frostily they're dramatized.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Theatrical auteur Deborah Warner makes her feature-film directorial debut with an adaptation of Elizabeth Bowen's novel about the end of a class and its way of life, specifically the Anglo-Irish aristocracy in Ireland. County Cork, 1920: The mammoth count… (more)

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