Five centuries ago a mural was created in a country church in the north of England and then hidden under layers of white paint. Looking at it again will be a distraction, the Rev. Mr. Keach tells WWI veteran Tom Birken who will spend a month in the country restoring the mural. Another veteran, James Moon, is looking for the grave of an ancestor of the patroness of the church who fought in the Crusades. The rector’s wife, Alice, comes to see the mural and later visits Birken’s bell tower abode, bringing a basket of apples. Will she open the book in which he has pressed the yellow rose she gave him earlier?
A Month in the Country is a 1987 British film directed by Pat O’Connor. The film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by J. L. Carr, and stars Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh, Natasha Richardson and Patrick Malahide. The screenplay was by Simon Gray.
Set in rural Yorkshire during the summer of 1920, the film follows a destitute World War I veteran employed to carry out restoration work on a Medieval mural discovered in a rural church while coming to terms with the after-effects of the war.
Shot during the summer of 1986 and featuring an original score by Howard Blake, the film has been neglected since its 1987 cinema release and it was only in 2004 that an original 35 mm film print was discovered due to the intervention of a fan.
About the Story
Set in 1920, the film follows the experiences of Tom Birkin (Colin Firth), who has been employed under a bequest to carry out restoration work on a Medieval mural discovered in a church in the small rural community of Oxgodby, Yorkshire. The escape to the idyllic countryside is cathartic for Birkin, haunted by his experiences in World War I. Birkin soon fits into the slow-paced life of the remote village, and over the course of the summer uncovering the painting begins to lose his trauma-induced stammer and tics.
In particular, he forms a close friendship with archaeologist James Moon (Kenneth Branagh), another veteran, who like Birkin has been emotionally scarred by the war. Moon is employed in the village under the same bequest, working to uncover a mysterious lost grave, but is more interested in discovering the remains of an earlier Saxon church building in the field next to the churchyard.
Birkin becomes accepted into the Nonconformist family of Mr Ellerbeck the station master (Jim Carter), with whom he dines on Sundays; the hospitality of the chapel congregation is contrasted against the established church, who have consigned the penniless Birkin to sleep in the church belfry. Ellerbeck’s children eventually persuade Birkin to preach a sermon at a nearby Methodist chapel.
Birkin also forms an emotional, albeit unspoken, attachment to Alice Keach (Natasha Richardson), the young wife of the vicar. The vicar himself (Patrick Malahide) is portrayed unsympathetically as an obstruction to the work in the church, viewing the medieval painting as symptomatic of the superstition prevalent in the community.
A Month in the Country (1987)
Directed by: Pat O’Connor
Starring: Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh, John Atkinsons, Jim Carter, Patrick Malahide, Richard Vernon, Natasha Richardson, Vicki Arundale, Elizabeth Anson
Screenplay by: Simon Gray
Production Design by: Leo Austin
Cinematography by: Kenneth MacMillan
Film Editing by: John Victor-Smith
Costume Design by: Judy Moorcroft
Art Direction by: Richard Elton
Music by: Howard Blake
Distributed by: Euston Films, Channel Four Films, Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 27, 1987