Keeping Mum

 
Directed by: Niall Johnson
Written by:Niall Johnson, Richard Russo
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Patrick Swayze, Emilia Fox, Liz Smith
Released: January 26, 2006
Grade: C

Our film begins with a pretty, young lady reading a magazine aboard a train.  She looks as sweet and innocent as any person could be.  That is until the train reaches its destination and a team of police officers come aboard.  They had been notified by an attendant who observed a red liquid oozing from the lady’s trunk, stored in the baggage cabin.  On opening, two bodies were found – that of the lady’s husband and his mistress.  Showing no remorse for her actions, the lady was sentenced to a mental asylum and was not to be released until she is no longer a threat to the community.

After this short introduction, we skip 43 years into the future and meet the Goodfellow family.  Reverend Walter Goodfellow (Atkinson) and his wife Gloria (Thomas) live in a small, peaceful town.  They have two children – a promiscuous daughter, Holly, and a shy son, Petey.  To help with the kids and the household chores, Walter and Gloria have hired a housekeeper by the name of Grace Hawkins (Smith).  Her strange arrival is just the start of a very unusual week for the Goodfellows.

If you put two and two together, you’ll see how the stories are linked.  I often criticise films for being predictable but only a small few are as obvious as Keeping Mum.  You could see the surprises coming from a mile away.  So noticeable were the “hints” dropped along the way, that I thought it was one giant hoax.  Were they just “red herrings” leading up to an unexpected twist in the end?  Nope.  It played out 100% as expected.

Even if you’re a fan of the ending, how could one not be disappointed by the thin storyline?  The jokes are overused and weren’t funny anyway.  How many times did I have to watch Gloria get annoyed by the barking dog next door?  How many times did I have to watch the next door neighbour enquire about the gardening society?  How many times did I have to watch Holly come home with a new boyfriend?

As unattractive as Keeping Mum sounds, it has attracted a quality cast including Rowan Atkinson, Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith.  All the actors are struggle though in roles which don’t suit.  Their idiosyncrasies are overdone and I would have preferred subtler, more believable characters.  The overall premise has merit but why make a black comedy with a screwball cast?  It doesn’t work.