Swaziland 1969, and the British Ex-Pat community is thrown
into turmoil by the impending arrival of Independence signalling
the end of their pampered decadent lifestyles. Seen through
the eyes of the young Ralph Compton as he comes to terms with
his parents messy divorce, after divorce, his liberating relationship
with his father's brash American new wife and discovering
love for the first time...
is a semi-autobiographical drama written and directed by Richard
E. Grant. And to be perfectly honest, ignoring for a minute
that this is his first attempt at writing and directing a
movie, this is a fantastic film which looks like it had a
much bigger budget than it actually did.
during the last gasp of the British Empire in Swaziland, South
East Africa, in 1969, the plot focuses on the dysfunctional
Compton family whose gradual disintegration mirrors the end
of British rule. As an 11 year old, Ralph witnesses his mother's
adultery with his father's best friend. His parents divorce
and Ralph is sent to boarding school. Harry Compton not only
loses his wife and best friend, but also his position as Minister
of Education with the coming of Independence, prompting his
rapid descent into alcoholism.
Now 14, Ralph returns home to discover that his father has
remarried an American ex-air hostess called Ruby whom he has
known all of six weeks. As round a peg as you could find in
this square holed society, Ruby ridicules the petty snobbery
of Colonial life by identifying Colonial-speak as sounding
like a load of old "Wah-Wah". Although Ralph is
initially wary of Ruby, he bonds with her as his father's
drinking escalates dangerously out of control. Meanwhile,
the community frenziedly prepares an amateur production of
Camelot to impress Princess Margaret who is visiting
to preside over Independence. Ralph gets cast, falls in love
and discovers a way to escape his hellish home life.
underlying theme is love - love lost, regained, unrequited,
forgotten, longed for, and discovered. I'm
not sure which movie the reviewer for the Independent
saw as they describe the film as "full of humour"
on the quote on the front of the DVD box. While it does have
its moments, humour is not really on the cards much throughout
this film. But then it's the bleak and depressing moments
that make this movie tug at the old heart strings so unmercifully.
thing I want to get off my chest is the totally absurd review
DVD we received. The image had a timecode clock obscuring
the top portion of the screen and then every five minutes
a copyright warning would appear obscuring the best part of
the bottom of the screen. I haven't seen anything like this
since my days at DreamWatch magazine when VHS video
review tapes all seemed to be like this. With a moving film
like Wah-Wah a lot of the impact was lost. This was
particularly the case in the movie's final touching scene
- the moment was totally lost thanks to the copyright warning.
as for the extras... don't even ask, but for some reason these
review DVDs come with no extras at all. So I can't really
comment on the extras at all. Apparently if you shell out
for the finished item you'll get a Making Of Documentary
as well as Interviews with cast and crew featurette.
should seriously reconsider their policy of review discs.
If they continue to treat reviewers in this manner how can
they expect to get honest reviews that praise their releases?
As it is, I've wasted three paragraphs here moaning about
it when I could have been praising the movie more.
the end of the day this is a beautiful, touching and well
realised production. There's not a bad actor in sight and
whoever was the casting director certainly earned their money
for bringing together a great collection of actors.
upon a time we British had a profitable film industry. It's
good to see that Richard E. Grant not only takes us back to
a time when we had an Empire in South Africa, but also makes
us realise that we still have some of the best creative talent
on the planet... and that's not just a load of Wah-Wah either.