PBS // 2009 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // January 13th, 2011
"This is exactly the kind of mess that makes me prefer paintings to people."
When Britain's National Gallery is flooded, Quentin (Trevor Eve, She's Out of My League) is asked to oversee the storage of the art in a secret World War II bunker in a remote North Wales location. Angharad (Eve Myles, Torchwood), the village schoolteacher, will make his task as bumpy as possible. Somehow, they'll be in love by the end of Masterpiece Contemporary: Framed.
That's the obvious plotline for this BBC romantic comedy -- and Framed delivers it. The tight editing and fast pace, including time-lapse camerawork, boil that plotline down to archetypes: he's the brainy art expert and she's the people person teacher.
If that were all there was here, there wouldn't be much. The performances make the romantic stuff agreeable -- even if Eve Myles seems as odd as a Torchwood operative the way Angharad keeps popping up -- but they can't make it seem very deep if it's just not in the script. However, there's a little more to Framed, thanks to a typical comically confused conversation early in the film, as Quentin thinks he's talking artists with young Dylan (Samuel Davies, Thunderpants), but doesn't realize that he's really talking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. From there, things get weird, eventually leading to an art heist staged by kids who can't even keep track of their pilfered treasure.
However, there's an underlying theme about human potential that's more interesting than whether Quentin and Angharad ever get together. While Quentin's making his boring, slightly irritated meanderings about town, obsessed by art and artists, the occasional pleasant surprise turns up, most notably in the form of a butcher who believes the liver is alive is inspired to give new life to a closed park. The village is filling up with unintended consquences, but they're not all bad. "Everyone's amazing when you listen to them, and you did," Angharad tells Quentin near the film's end to sum it up, just in case viewers haven't quite gotten this point.
The production's first-rate, with the fast visuals augmented by a lively musical score to keep things moving along.
There are no extras, but this production does include Masterpiece Contemporary host David Tennant's brief introduction. That's okay, but it adds nothing in the way of background or history to the movie experience; a meaty intro would have been better for TV viewers, too, even if it had meant less time for PBS plugs.
Framed comes from a children's novel by Frank Cottrell Boyce. That could explain the lack of subtlety; it also keeps things family friendly. It's the rental or TV viewing experience you're looking for if you have small kids at home: safe but not boring to adults. It's worth a rental or Netflix if you missed it on TV.
Not guilty. Now where did I put that Van Gogh?
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Masterpiece Theatre