You might think that in a movie called “Tamara Drewe,” the character named Tamara Drewe would be the protagonist. She isn’t. You might then think she could be the primary antagonist creating the chaos that has to be straightened out by the protagonist. Not really. And you might think that a movie based on a graphic novel would have some sci-fi or fantasy or at least be set in a big, modern city. Not even close. This film, based on the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds has a few surprises in store.
Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) does create something of an uproar in the almost-too picturesque English village she returns to after the death of her mother. Her ostensible purpose is to fix up her home so it can be sold. Her real purpose, one with which we all can identify, is to show the folks she left behind that contrary to their impression of her as an awkward teenager dubbed “Beaky” because of her big nose, she is now a very glamorous and successful young writer with a smaller nose who looks very, very good in a pair of jean shorts that are very, very small.
There are two people in particular she would like to get this message. First is the middle-aged married man who hurt her feelings, a very successful writer of mystery novels named Nicholas (the oleaginous Roger Allam). Second is the young man who broke her heart, a handyman named Andy (Luke Evans), who works at the writer’s residence owned by Nicholas and his wife Beth (the superb Tamsin Greig). While Nicholas turns out eight pages a day and basks in the adoration — and sometimes more — of fans, Beth caters to an assortment of would-be writers with home-made cookies, gentle encouragement, and a few shrewd suggestions about plotting and tone. Meanwhile, a pair of teenage girls (the terrific (Charlotte Christie and Jessica Barden) with a crush on a rock star (Dominic Cooper) create all kinds of mischief for everyone, especially after Tamera’s interview with him turns into a romance.
The fun of the film is the way it upends expectations. In a setting that superficially appears to have changed very little since the time of its Thomas Hardy inspiration (especially Far from the Madding Crowd), there are splashes of modernity from lesbian porn to a nose job and a rock band called Swipe. Hardy’s lost letter mix-up is recalled when one of the teenagers sends emails from Tamara’s account. On the surface, too, with its title cards showing the four seasons and Masterpiece Theatre understated rhythms and elegant accents, it seems at first to be a conventionally structured story. But it has a beguilingly episodic nature, based on the book’s multiple narrators and on its origins as a weekly comic, with its leisurely and open-ended story-line, where even the author has not decided on an end point. Some viewers may find that unsettling, but it has some sharply observed moments for those who are willing to meander.
Parents should know that this film has very explicit sexual references and situations, nudity, drinking, drugs, fatal accident with some graphic images, extremely strong language, and bad behavior by teens including smoking and sexual conversation.
Family discussion: How did Tamara’s teenage experiences
influence her adult decisions?
What do you think will happen to the girls?
If you like this, try: the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds