Schepisi's adaptation of Graham Swift's Booker- winning tale of three old Bermondsey chums' drive to Margate to bury the ashes of their old mucker and drinking partner, Jack Dodds, is richly entertainment. Sober, even elegiac in tone, and elegantly shot in 'Scope, the film attempts to flesh out in full these Londoners' lives by the accretion of detail, history and context. To that end, it uses - problematically - continual flashback to show significant scenes from the lives of the principals, their wives and their families, from their youthful hop-picking escapades in the '30s, through the war, to the present (the late '80s). At the film's heart is an attempt to suggest the extraordinary nature of ordinary people, and if it fails to achieve profundity, it still makes for one of the most rewarding and authentic depictions of/tributes to the Cockney way of life in recent years. Caine (butcher Jack), deflecting his almost iconic status, modulates vitality with obduracy and pathos; Winstone (Jack's gabby car -salesman son, who chauffeurs) is his usual easeful self; while Courtenay (fair undertaker Vic) and Hemmings (volatile ex-boxer Len) make a highly enjoyable pair of opposites. The revelations are, however, Hoskins (gambler and divorcee Ray) and Helen Mirren (Jack's wife, whom Ray has always loved), whose scenes together have a quiet depth that overshadows all else.
Cast and crew