A coming-of-age story about two women at different stages in life, The Chaperone is a collaboration between Downton Abbey creator and screenwriter Julian Fellowes and actress Elizabeth McGovern, who plays the television show's Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham.
More than seven years ago, McGovern recorded an audio version of The Chaperone, a novel by Laura Moriarty. She was so taken with this story of Louise Brooks, the 1920s' silver-screen star who, along with chaperone Norma Carlisle, headed to New York in the 1920s to attend a contemporary dance school, she optioned the book.
After convincing Fellowes to write the screenplay, she convinced talented youngster Haley Lu Richardson (Five Feet Apart) to play Louise and then stepped into the shoes of Norma, the chaperone. The impressive casting also includes Miranda Otto, Blythe Danner and Campbell Scott.
The film might be set in a different period, but its themes resonate today, with Louise and Norma showing the transformation of two quite different women living through a period of cultural change.
Their journey from Wichita to New York allows Norma to find her birth mother, and Louise to make a living out of expressing herself as a dancer. Each pushes the boundaries of a woman's role in society and relationships. Some will recognise their mother, or even themselves in these characters - having an "awakening" can happen anywhere and at any time.
Richardson is charming and charismatic as the young Louise Brookes and works well with McGovern, who drives this story with a strong performance. Unfortunately the casting of Geza Rohrig (Son of Saul) as Norma's love interest doesn't work quite so well, and as a result, their relationship feels forced.
Handsomely shot, The Chaperone captures the time well, and while it touches on themes of adultery, homosexuality and sexual freedom, it's presented as a lovely, pleasant romp through a vibrant era.
Elizabeth McGovern, Haley Lu Richardson
PG (Coarse Language)
Pleasant, nicely crafted period drama.