Britain’s ‘Keeping Mum’ Is to Die For

El Vaquero Features Editor

In a small English countryside town, a reverend and his family get much-needed Grace and a few murders to go with her.

Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”), Kristin Scott Thomas (“Gosford Park” and “Life as a House”), Maggie Smith (“Harry Potter” series) and Patrick Swayze (“Ghost”) star in “Keeping Mum” a very funny and bizarre British dark comedy directed by Niall Johnson and written by Johnson and Richard Russo.

The film begins 40 years prior, following a young woman Rosie Jones (Emilia Fox) on a train. On this train ride, it becomes evident that her trunk is bleeding. It turns out that the dismembered bodies of her husband and his mistress are stuffed in there; a very pregnant Jones is put into a mental institution.

The film then skips ahead to present day, to the home of Reverend Walter Goodfellow (Atkinson), an absent-minded man who does not see that his family is falling apart. His wife Gloria (Scott Thomas) is on the verge of having an affair and running off with her golf pro, Lance (Swazye); his daughter Holly is, as Gloria puts it, a “nymphomaniac”; and his son Petey is continuously being bullied at school.

In walks his saving grace: a lovely little old lady with a very familiar-looking trunk, Grace Hawkins (Smith), becomes their housekeeper. Unbeknownst to the family, Grace has very permanent and deadly ways of disposing of what she feels are the problems that are ripping the family apart. Smith steals the movie as the adorable, killing-happy housekeeper.

Atkinson, as a Reverend, is far from his usual role as Mr. Bean, yet his character still manages to maintain the aloofness that is hard for most to capture on screen. Goodfellow is about to go to a religious convention where he is to give the opening speech and seems more concerned with the speech and his ponds’ algae issues than with his children and sexually deprived wife.

Scott Thomas does an amazing job as the lonely housewife Gloria. She tries to keep her family together, although she has no previous concept of a “normal” family as she grew up in an orphanage. But with a rebellious daughter who is getting far more action than she is, a timid son who’s afraid to go to school and a husband who seems as useful and entertaining as a boat in the middle of the desert, it is difficult. She finds solace and excitement with her oversexed and perverted golf pro Lance.
Grace, however, changes all that and things get better right away. The annoying barking dog next door that has caused Gloria many sleepless nights suddenly becomes quiet — too quiet. And her feelings for her golf pro begin to fade as Walter loosens up and learns that he can be a man, as well as a man of the cloth. Holly finds something else to do, as well as someone else, and Petey stops fearing the bullies — all with the divine help of Grace.

Unfortunately, Grace isn’t as divine as Walter and Gloria think she is. In fact, she is a cold-blooded murderer, with a killer sense of humor.

At one point, Gloria tells Grace, “You can’t just kill people because you disapprove of them!”

Grace replies, “That’s what my doctors kept saying. It was the one thing we could never agree on.”

In the end, the body count is only three, but the laughs are plentiful. The British have an amazing way with obscure comedies; this is by far one of the best. If one must pay $9-10 to see a movie, it should be a good one, and this one is truly worth it.

**** out of 4 stars