Mired in suburbia and a stale marriage, and engaged in a vicious territorial dispute with her two teenagers, Lorna (Staunton) hates her life. So when old college beau Jamie (Lindsay) shows up on the doorstep, well, it has to be an improvement. He has a Rolls outside, but no petrol and no ready cash. Perhaps Lorna could spare a few bob? She can't, but she will, if Jamie stays for dinner - and never mind her sadsack husband Ian (Mayall), he's just feeling sorry for himself. This is essentially a modest British domestic comedy remoulded as Chekhovian farce. Screenwriter Michael Frayn doesn't let the mechanics overshadow character; the humour here springs from heartfelt hope and despair. Wisely resisting the temptation to caricature, the actors retain straight faces even as their world is invaded by gangsters, rampaging ex-wives and preposterous in-laws. Restrained, sour and stooped, Mayall is all grey defeat; and you can see how Lindsay's blithe charm rekindles something in Staunton's breast. The film's melancholy hysteria couldn't be more British - it is subtle but exact on the unwitting effrontery of the rich, and the sorry, ingrained subservience of the rest. And very funny too.
Cast and crew