Gideon's Daughter

Okay, I admit it. I have become a real fan of Director Stephen Poliakoff, thanks to my friend Carl, sitting over there in Sweden, pulling the strings.... This is the third film of Poliakoff's that I find myself recommending, the first two being "Friends and Crocodiles" and "The Lost Prince." His films, which he generally both writes and directs, are unlike any others. He tends to focus on a period in history, then plop someone down in the middle of it and "humanize" it for his audience.

"Friends and Crocodiles" leads up to, through and then past, the Dot Com bust. "The Lost Prince" focuses on a decade just prior to World War II. This latest one starts about where "Friends and Crocodiles" leaves off; in fact, one of the characters from "F & C" is the narrator of "Gideon's Daughter" and we focus on the period just before, during and immediately after, Princess Di's car crash in Paris.

Poliakoff writes for the stage, television and the cinema. He never lacks for subject matter because he walks around London and sees stories behind every building, every construction site, every object, every event and every character he encounters. According to the interview with Robert Lindsey ("Friends and Crocodiles" and "Extras"), who plays the narrator of this film, Poliakoff is decisive, rude, opinionated and everyone would kill to work with him. His crew has been with him for decades despite his abrasiveness. This film won two Golden Globes.

Bill Nighy ("Girl in a Café" and "Love, Actually") is Gideon. His estranged wife died years ago and he has raised their daughter to college age. The daughter, played by Emily Blunt ("The Devil Wears Prada" and "The Jane Austen Book Club"), wants to experience a traditional "Gap Year" in which she will go to Columbia, South America, to help the people there. Gideon is horrified, as it is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world, so he wants her to go directly to Edinburgh and start college. He is understandably afraid for her safety, but she sees his attitude as unwarranted and interfering. She has resented his absence at the moment of her mother's death years ago and has never forgiven him.

He is a political and business consultant, inordinately successful, but he is losing his focus through his worry for his daughter. He encounters a woman who is working her way through an extended period of grief because her young son was killed on his bicycle a couple of years ago. Stella, played by Miranda Richardson ("The Hours" and "The Lost Prince") works nights in a mini-mart because she doesn't sleep very well and just wants to stay busy.

The less Gideon listens to the concerns of his staff and his clients, the more successful he becomes. Princess Di's automobile crash is woven seamlessly into this piece. I won't tell you how it ends, but I WILL say that Princess Diana dies... Hope that's not too much of a spoiler...

This is a well-crafted, well-acted, well-funded and marvelously cast movie.