Quintessentially British review – amiable overview of national quirks

Frank Mannion’s uncritically bland documentary stays focused for the most part on posh, white English matters

Quintessentially British.
Ho-hum … Quintessentially British. Photograph: Frank Mannion

Film-maker Frank Mannion has followed up his documentary on champagne with an amiable but frankly anodyne and uncritical study of what is supposed to be “quintessentially British” – by which he largely means posh English, because the Scots and the Welsh don’t get much of a look in.

The result is a ho-hum round of interviews, some with people outrageously flogging corporate branded merchandise, the filmic equivalent of an inflight magazine article about all the grandest places to go shopping or sightseeing in the UK – but also, weirdly, like the special interest segments from BBC TV’s old magazine programme, Nationwide. There are contributions from London’s grandest tailors, hatters, shoemakers and makers of sporting guns; there are interviews with footballers, taxi drivers, chefs and racing trainers. These are mainly white British but there are also interviews with south Asian, African-Caribbean and east Asian people. An elderly hereditary peer unselfconsciously talks about his perks and entitlements at the House of Lords, and Ian McKellen and Judi Dench talk about the importance of Shakespeare. There are people of all ages in this film, and yet watching it is like sucking a single Werther’s Original for an hour and a half. There is a place for an un-problematised look at the subject of Britishness, but this is exasperatingly bland.

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