Based on Julia Strachey’s 1932 novella that was championed into print by Virginia Woolf, Cheerful Weather For The Wedding is set on the morning of the marriage of Dolly Thatcham (Felicity Jones) to Owen Bigham. While the family prepares and Dolly’s rather fussy and sharp mother (Elizabeth McGovern) fusses and tries to control her brood, a fly in the ointment arrives in the form of Joseph (Luke Treadaway).
As we see in flashback, Dolly and Joseph had a brief romance, and it may well be that his appearance is because he has hopes of winning her back before it’s too late. While Dolly frets upstairs and wonders why Joseph is there, her waspish mother is downstairs trying to keep things light and airy while also attempting to frustrate Joseph and discover his intentions.
In your typical British period drama, you’d know from the start how it was going to end – true love would conquer all, the bride’s husband to be would be uncovered as an evil rogue (Owen seems to have a thing against tortoises, but he’s not that bad) and all would be roses and sunshine at the end. However Cheerful Weather At The Wedding isn’t that sort of film – but the problem is that it looks like it is. Instead it’s about the things not said, the opportunities missed, the realities that get in the way of the storybook endings and the way hesitation and fear often gets in the way of life and leads us to do what may be necessary but isn’t what we’d like.
All that sounds like it’d make for an excellent movie, but Cheerful Weather perhaps signals its intentions too late. Initially it feels like we’re in Downton Abbey territory, but with a script that lacks the heft of Julian Fellowes’s show. It’s not until about two-thirds of the way through that it become clearer where we’re going, and the problem with that is that so much of what’s happened up until then seems to inconsequential. The idea is presumably that we see all this but only understand its weight later on. However the film had given us so little to hang onto or really care about, it doesn’t really succeed.
Indeed if anything the early parts of the film feel a tad cheesy, with an assortment of standard period drama types – the oafish younger brother, mooning teenage sister, acid-tongued older relatives, quiet yet knowing servant – and a style that contrasts the drab December wedding morning with sun-dappled softness of Joseph and Dolly’s courtship a few months before.
It all leads up to an absolutely cracking scene where Joseph reveals the complexity of what’s been going on, but in some respects it’s too little too late. It’s a film that in hindsight feels like it’s got all the right ingredients but something gone slightly awry while mixing together the recipe. The result is slightly backward to most films – as the payoff is quite good but the lead-up isn’t. It’s no disaster and period drama fans probably won’t complain, but it’s a shame it couldn’t have found the balance and tone all the way through that would have made it an unequivocal success.
Overall Verdict: The ending is good but Cheerful Wedding spends a bit too much time lulling us into the sense this is a sub-Downton period flick, so that when it turns into something else it lacks the oomph it could have had.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac