Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Keeping Mum

(UK, 2005)

Forty years ago a sweet and pretty young woman killed her husband and his lover, stuffed their dismembered bodies into a steamer trunk, and boarded a train for the seaside, blood leaking from the trunk into the baggage car. She’s judged insane, but now she’s paroled, and working as a housekeeper for the distracted vicar (Rowan Atkinson) of Little Wallop (pop. 57, but it looks like a lot more) and his sexually unsatisfied wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), who’s thinking about having an affair with the swinish but buff golf pro (Patrick Swayze). Maggie Smith is the dotty old lady. This aspires to be like an old B&W Ealing comedy, such as Kind Hearts and Coronets, but it doesn’t have that light, ironic touch. In fact, it takes itself too seriously, which is deadly for this sort of thing. Everything is a moral lesson, in a way, in that dotty housekeeper solves all their problems for them, from schoolyard bullies to a barking dog. It should be either much more antic, as Arsenic and Old Lace, or a lot edgier, as in any number of recent dark comedies involving murder. One or the other; you really can’t have it both ways, and throw in sentimental treacle as well.