Observer Review of Middletown (Mar 2007)

Set in an isolated Ulster village in what one assumes from the banknotes and cars is the late 1950s or early 60s, Brian Kirk's Middletown is a bold melodrama directed against narrow-minded fundamentalist Protestantism. After 15 years away, the Reverend Gabriel Hunter (handsome Matthew Macfadyen, Mr Darcy in the recent Pride & Prejudice) returns to his native village full of religious zeal. Taking over from a lax old man, he denounces his father for handling black-market diesel to keep the family's garage business afloat, turns on his heavily pregnant sister-in-law for running a pub and not attending church, attacks his parishioners for engaging in cock-fighting (not unreasonable that one) and preaches hellfire sermons.

The movie starts well, but becomes increasingly hysterical. It's full of symbols (eg, a baby is born to an outcast mother in a pub called the Stables); the village has no doctor, lawyer, policeman or nearby fire brigade; and if he ever sees it, Ian Paisley would probably issue a fatwa. There is, however, a fine cast and the atmospheric images are the work of Adam Suschitzky, third generation of a distinguished family of cinematographers.


Observer  by Philip French

March 4, 2007