If you're thinking of a visit to the cinema with your mum as an appropriate way to celebrate Mother's Day, and you've already seen Their Finest, then I can recommend Gurinder Chadha's Viceroy's House.

A handsomely crafted period piece that is largely factual as well as entertaining, Viceroy's House is like a mix of Indian Summers (a television series that screened on TVNZ 1 ) and Downton Abbey.

Downton's Hugh Bonneville stars as the final Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, appointed by George VI to oversee the peaceful transfer of power from Britain to India in 1947. As expected, Bonneville does a lovely job exuding a sense of British decency and determination to "not let the side down".

At first he's all business as he deals with the different leaders vying for power in the transition, such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi. The transition to independence becomes harder when tensions between the Hindu-majority and Muslim-minority turn to violence, and the Viceroy must consider partitioning India to give the Muslims their own majority state - Pakistan.


The politics plays out against the more personal story of young staff members, one Hindu the other Muslim, whose star-crossed-lovers story portrays the upheaval ordinary Indians experienced during partition. Given a more melodramatic tone, this "downstairs" story sits a little awkwardly next to the politics, but brings to life the heartbreak and chaos of the mass migration caused.

Gillian Anderson's interpretation of Lady Mountbatten is intriguing; she's bright, outspoken and compassionate, yet Anderson's obvious effort to recreate her character's physical stance is distracting. There's no mention of Lady Mountbatten's numerous affairs - which would have tarnished the positive spin on the Mountbatten's reputation.

But overall, there's a lovely mix of seriousness and dry British wit, and the settings and landscape are beautifully captured.

While Viceroy's House has a populist feel, a revelation in the credits of Chandra's connection to this story is the perfect touch. It's a gentle reminder that this may be an entertaining retelling of events, but the experience is still felt by the families who experienced them.


Gillian Anderson, Hugh Bonneville


Gurinder Chadha



M (Content may disturb)

Running time:

106 mins


Indian Summers


Downton Abbey