DIRECTOR: Saul Dibb
May Contain Spoilers!
Keira Knightly isn’t my favourite British actress, but she has her moments and this is defiantly one of them. Playing the ancestor of the late Princess Diana, the parallels are drawn as Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire, (Knightly) is married off to the philandering Duke (Ralph Fiennes) and is quickly forced to carve a life, image and status for herself within the upper crust of English society in the 1700’s.
She becomes popular, famous and political tool for some, and falls in love with a young politician, Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper). Meanwhile, the Duke is fathering other children to his mistresses, one of which is her best friend Bess Foster (Hayley Atwell) and her inability to give birth to a son and heir is a problem for their marriage.
Fiennes gives one of this usual, chilling and believable performances as the Duke, who even though his actions are selfish and at times, abhorrent, including a rape of his wife, he manages never to become pantomime in his villainy and comes across as a man struggling with his perceived duties and his own selfish desires. Knightly’s descent into desperation as she tries to maintain her own illicit relationship with the younger and more passionate man (Copper) is played well, and overall this is an interesting take on a character which has been overlooked and her relevance to more modern-day regal politics is uncanny.
But is this intentional? This isn’t a thoroughly true story and obviously has been subject to theatrical licence and the comparison between the two women was intentional from day one. But as a film it works. It’s a tragic story told in a solid way by some first-rate actors. None less that Fiennes, who walks a very fine line perfectly.
Strictly true or not, the story is very telling of the time and the culture, a culture which is still alive a well in this country today.