Glorious 39 is a 2009 British war thriller film written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff, starring Romola Garai, Bill Nighy, Julie Christie, Jeremy Northam, Christopher Lee, David Tennant, Jenny Agutter and Eddie Redmayne. The film was released on 20 November 2009.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Poliakoff|
|Written by||Stephen Poliakoff|
|Music by||Adrian Johnston|
|Edited by||Jason Krasucki|
|Distributed by||Momentum Pictures|
On the eve of World War II, as the formidable Keyes family tries to uphold its traditional way of life, daughter Anne sees her life dramatically unravel when she stumbles upon secret recordings of the pro-appeasement movement.
In present-day London, Michael Walton visits his older cousins, Walter and Oliver Page. Interested in family history, he asks them about his great aunt, Anne Keyes, the sister of his grandmother, Celia. Anne, an actress, was the eldest of the three Keyes children. Desperate for children, her father, Sir Alexander, a Member of Parliament, and mother, Maud, had adopted her. However, Maud subsequently gave birth to Ralph and Celia. Michael is curious to learn what happened to Anne, which leads Walter to reminisce about the summer of 1939, at the Keyes' estate in Norfolk.
On Sir Alexander's birthday, Anne has prepared a table in the garden to celebrate. Anne's friend, the outspoken MP Hector, and lover, the reserved Lawrence, are present for the festivities. When Sir Alexander arrives he brings a guest, the quiet government employee Joseph Balcombe. During dinner Hector rants about Britain's lack of action against Nazi Germany. It is later revealed that he has been one of those calling out for a new prime minister.
The next day, while looking for a cat in one of the property's sheds, which are off-limits as they are used for storing Sir Alexander's private papers, Anne finds gramophone records labelled "Foxtrot". These prove to contain recorded meetings and telephone conversations. Sir Alexander reveals that he has allowed Balcombe to store government documents in the shed.
Two weeks later, Anne is notified that Hector has been found dead, from an apparent suicide. Anne wonders if Balcombe had anything to do with Hector's death. Sir Alexander brushes off the idea, but does offer to ask Balcombe to remove the records from the shed, something he promises to do the next day during a picnic. While there, the picnickers go for a walk, leaving Anne to watch over baby Oliver. She awakens to find Oliver and his pushchair missing. She follows his cries to no avail, and she comes across young Walter and accuses him of playing a game. When the family returns, they search. Balcombe insists on searching with Anne through the lane, even though she has already searched there, but they find him in his pushchair on a lane. Anne denies moving the baby, but the incident plants roots of doubt about Anne's word.
Balcombe removes the records that night, but Anne secretly keeps two of them. The family then returns to London because Parliament has been recalled. While there Anne listens to the records. One contains a recording of a distressed Hector pleading with Balcombe to cease calling him and his parents about his personal life. However, the maid bursts into the room, which causes the gramophone to fall and the record to break into pieces. On 1 September, Anne gives a second record to her fellow actor and friend Gilbert, who closely follows politics. The next day he arrives to their scene late and clearly upset, and the director insists they begin shooting immediately. The news that Britain has declared war on Germany is announced, and Gilbert is later found dead from apparent suicide. When Anne watches her final scene with Gilbert, she is stunned to realise that a supposed flub of his lines, in which he changes his line from, "You should listen to me, Jenny" to "You should listen to it again, Anne" was really meant for her.
Anne travels back to Norfolk to keep Aunt Elizabeth company, where she listens to the second recording again. On the end, she recognises Balcombe's voice discussing their plots to pressure and silence men like Hector. Suddenly she hears the voice of her brother, Ralph, who suggests the name "Thin Man Dancing" for their covert operation — a reference to a childhood toy. At a party in London, Anne tells Lawrence of Ralph's involvement, but he already knows. Lawrence convinces Anne to bring him the recording at a rendezvous at a suburban veterinary surgery. After Anne finds Lawrence's body in a shed filled with euthanised pets, she escapes and gives the recording to a child, who promises to post it to Churchill. She is subsequently recaptured, drugged by her father and held prisoner in Aunt Elizabeth's house, which is close to St Paul's Cathedral. Balcombe pays her a visit and shows her the second recording, which he had intercepted. He tells her that it had been made for her father. He also informs her that their house in London is being used for series of pro-appeasement meetings that her father is chairing.
Sir Alexander later admits to her that he believes Britain will be destroyed unless it secures an early peace with Germany. He says that she is the only member of the family that does not share his beliefs, which is why they are keeping her secure. They deprive her of water and leave her to die. But, after some time, Maud releases her while the rest of the family is at the park. Anne goes past them, and when they act as though nothing has happened, she runs away.
Back in the present, Walter tells Michael that Anne had died in Canada 20 years ago, and that he had just been doing what his family and Balcombe had wanted. It is then revealed that Balcombe had convinced Walter to move Oliver's pushchair into the lane. Michael asks Oliver and Walter to accompany him to meet his mother. They travel to the same park where Anne had last seen her family. A woman, Michael's mother, wheels an elderly woman towards them. That elderly woman is Anne, and Michael tells them that he knew the truth all along but wanted to hear it from them.
- Romola Garai as Anne Keyes, an actress and eldest Keyes child. Ralph refers to her as "Glorious".
- Bill Nighy as Sir Alexander, Anne's father, Member of Parliament and World War I veteran.
- Julie Christie as Elizabeth, Anne's aunt.
- David Tennant as Hector, a family friend and Member of Parliament
- Christopher Lee as Walter Page
- Sam Kubrick-Finney as young Walter Page
- Eddie Redmayne as Ralph, Anne's brother
- Juno Temple as Celia, Anne's sister
- Jenny Agutter as Maud, Anne's mother
- Hugh Bonneville as Gilbert Williams, an actor friend of Anne
- Charlie Cox as Lawrence, Anne's lover
- Corin Redgrave as Oliver Page
- Jeremy Northam as Joseph Balcombe, a shady government operative
- Toby Regbo as Michael Walton, Anne's grandnephew
- Muriel Pavlow as Old Anne Keyes
- The Daily Mail: "For a thriller, the pace is much too sedate, and it's easy to lose patience with a heroine who is this slow on the uptake. As a director of child actors, Poliakoff is hopeless. Worst of all, he seems not to have seen many movie thrillers in the past 20 years, for the pacing is pedestrian and the camerawork static, more redolent of bad episodes of Midsomer Murders than modern cinema. Verdict: Poor script and laboured direction sink fine leading performance."
- The Guardian: "Stephen Poliakoff's pre-second world war conspiracy thriller never zips the way it should, but it's still a solid, old-school entertainment."
- "GLORIOUS 39 (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 2 October 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- "Stephen Poliakoff's feature film 1939, featuring stellar line-up of UK's finest acting talent, starts shooting". BBC Press Office. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
- Kiss, Jemima (3 November 2008). "Stephen Poliakoff shoots first feature film in a decade". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
- Tookey, Chris (20 November 2009). "Bumbling villains, a clunky plot - run, Romola, run". Daily Mail. London.
- Brooks, Xan (27 October 2009). "Glorious 39 – London film festival review". The Guardian. London.