First Night: Tamara Drewe, Cannes Film Festival

3.00

A pretty tale of countryside alliances – but hardly Hardy

Stephen Frears' big-screen version of the Posy Simmonds comic strip is a very cosy, middlebrow affair. Imagine Martin Scorsese in Ambridge adapting The Archers and you'll come close to its essence. It's amiable enough, has plenty of picture-postcard imagery of rural England (with hens and cows to the fore) and Gemma Arterton looks very fetching in her denim shorts. This, though, isn't exactly Frears at full throttle. There is precious little of the dark passion that ran through Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd (to which constant reference is made) here.

Arterton plays a music journalist writing for The Independent (of all papers) who returns to the rural village where she grew up. She has had a nose job, drives a Mini, and is now very much more poised and glamorous than when she left as a gawky young woman.

The village is home to arrogant novelist Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam), who cheats on his wife, the long-suffering Beth (Tamsin Greig.) It's also where the brooding country lad Andy Cobb (Luke Evans) lives. He is a former boyfriend of Tamara's and clearly still harbours strong feelings for her.

Frears plays up the comic elements in the story. In particular, he foregrounds the antics of two mischievous, bored teenage girls who spend their days throwing eggs at cars and lusting after pop star Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper). When Tamara begins an affair with Ben, these little harpies conspire against her in ever more demented fashion.

Frears shows the British countryside in rose-tinted fashion. It never seems to rain. The houses all have thatched roofs. Even the hens are photogenic.

The plotting is entirely predictable. The film's protagonists are eminently middle-class types who have ovens in their country kitchens and base their lives round Radio 4 schedules (there is even a cameo from James Naughtie). When they're not writing or reading crime novels or tending the livestock, these characters are primarily obsessed with sex. The arrival of Tamara sets them all a-flutter. Tamara herself is cheerfully promiscuous.

In its own quaint fashion, Tamara Drewe is likeable and funny enough. The tone, though, is very uneven. The inane humour and jokes about the differences between country and city life eventually begin to grate. In the latter part of the film, as the tone darkens, Frears' glib, upbeat storytelling style seems inappropriate. In Thomas Hardy adaptations, we're painfully aware of class and sexual tension. When affairs go awry, the consequences are tragic. Here, nothing much seems at stake. Frears orchestrates one memorable action sequence – a cattle stampede. Just occasionally, he hints at the insecurity of Tamara (abandoned as a kid by her father) and the unhappiness of Beth, who begins to discover details about her husband's philandering by studying the plots of his old books. The characterisation is vivid but determinedly superficial. It's as if Frears is worried that if he probes too deeply, he will risk ruining the mood of jolly escapism that generally prevails.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent