Tortoise in Love 84 mins
Our beshelled reptile is the movie's leading man, Tom, a first-class ditherer in life and love, but it also proves an apt reference to the trundling pace of this very gentle English indie comedy from the pen of former Guardian columnist Guy Browning, who also directs (and gives bit parts to various family members).
Browning's How To column had a more satirical edge than this genuinely good-natured and cheerful movie debut, which, as a result, lacks a little bite. The locals in Browning's Oxfordshire home town of Kingston Bagpuize act, produce and helped finance the film, which is duly set in their beautiful corner of the world.
Tom (Tom Mitchelson) is a prodigal son, returning to the village after three years in the big smoke to take a job as the gardener at the local stately home, owned by an outsider merchant banker, Jason Grandage – cue some groansome jokes about "absolute bankers". Duncan Armitage has great fun with the wholly disagreeable Grandage, who wants nothing to do with his 12-year-old son, instead palming him off on a succession of au pairs.
The latest of these, Polish beauty Anya (Alice Zawadski), catches the eye of the slow-moving Tom, who needs the entire village to rally to his aid. Mitchelson does well enough, despite not only closely resembling a young Hugh Grant but also possessing uncannily similar mannerisms.
But some of his support, including Zawadski, are as wooden as a carpenter's workshop, and some of the humour is equally lifeless. The guffaws I heard from some members of the audience at the preview screening suggest this will appeal to an older age range; if such a thing as a more lightweight Richard Curtis movie were possible, then this is that.
But at 84 minutes, there is enough genuine humour, a nice subplot about the village fete and a happy ending to ensure you leave the cinema with a warm glow. Showing Thursday.
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