The Duke (AU - M/UK - 12/ US - R)

In a Word: Delightful

The Duke

It's a made-for-film story - how one elderly northern Englishman's protest about paying for a TV license to watch the BBC leads to the mysterious headline-grabbing theft of Francisco Goya's world-famous painting of the Duke of Wellington from The National Gallery in London in 1961.

With The Duke, director Roger Mitchell, in what was his final film before his death last year at the age of 65, has made a sensitive, funny and satisfying big screen retelling.

"With The Duke, director Roger Mitchell, in what was his final film before his death, has made a sensitive, funny and satisfying big screen retelling."

Jim Broadbent stars as the 60-year-old Newcastle man Kempton Bunton who is briefly jailed for failing to pay his TV licence and then makes it is mission to lobby for free licenses for pensioners and veterans. Not a fan of his notoriety is his wife Dorothy (Helen Mirren) who is, as one of her sons notes, on her own mission - to scrub the world clean.

The action takes place against a backdrop of working class struggle (read: Kempton's struggle to hold down a job amid his efforts to change society for the better while his wife cleans the house of the local toffs) and grief as the family continue to grapple with the loss of their daughter in an accident.

Superbly cast - particularly Broadbent and Mirren but others in the ensemble include Fionn Whitehead as his supportive son Jackie, Jack Bandera as his troublesome oldest son Kenny, and Matthew Goode as his barrister Jeremy Hutchinson, The Duke makes use of historic footage and carefully recreated details, including a great soundtrack, to convey a sense of the era and life in the at times chaotic Bunton household. 

The Duke has a light tone but there's some serious issues under-girding it and its the combination of the two - as well as the portrayal of "ordinariness" in the life of the protagonist and his family - that make this film stand out.