Critics Consensus

The ensemble cast is strong, but they get overpowered by the muddled stew of melodrama.



Total Count: 68
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Movie Info

Actor and author Richard E. Grant made his directorial debut with this period comedy drama inspired by his own experiences growing up in colonial Africa in the sixties. Ralph Compton (Zachary Fox) is the 11-year old son of Harry (Gabriel Byrne), the minister of education in the British-controlled African nation of Swaziland. While Harry is a likeable and well-connected man, his marriage to Lauren (Miranda Richardson) is on shaky ground, and when he learns she's been having an affair with one of his best friends, she leaves him and he begins drinking heavily. Harry sends Ralph to boarding school when things start to get unpleasant, and after two years he returns home to discover that some changes have been made. Ralph (now played by Nicholas Hoult) finds that his father is still drinking, but seems a more relaxed and better adjusted man -- and has just remarried, having tied the knot with Ruby (Emily Watson), a former stewardess from America. Ralph naturally resists Ruby's presence in the house, but the two become close, as Ruby indicates that she understands Ralph better than anyone else (and he senses the same). Meanwhile, the British start to withdraw from Swaziland. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Gabriel Byrne
as Harry Compton
Miranda Richardson
as Lauren Compton
Nicholas Hoult
as Ralph Compton
Emily Watson
as Ruby Compton
Julie Walters
as Gwen Traherne
Celia Imrie
as Lady Riva Hardwick
Fenella Woolgar
as June Broughton
Julian Wadham
as Charles Bingham
Fenella Wollgar
as June Boughton
Zachary Fox
as Young Ralph Compton
John Matshikiza
as Dr. Zim Mzimba
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