Catherine Tate's spirited performance is one of the few bright spots in a film that from almost every other perspective is just so totally wrong. The story of a teacher from Bingley, West Yorkshire, who transports his family to the German Democratic Republic (better known as East Germany) to live in a communist utopia, only to discover that the worker's paradise is nothing of the sort, seems hopelessly dated from the get-go, not simply because of the topic, but because the producers seem to be willfully ignorant of the last 20 years of European history.
There is nothing immoral about making a comedy about life under intolerable political regimes - after all, one only has to recall Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's 2006 The Lives of Others to realize the darkly comic potential that films set in such societies can provide. Unfortunately the makers of Mrs Ratcliff's Revolution are not only ignorant of history, both political and cinematic, but also seem to be uncertain exactly what sort of movie they are trying to make. If the whole thing had been made as off-the-wall broad comedy, the film might just have passed muster, but attempts to give the situation a moral dimension make the film utterly unacceptable.
As for the performances, they are all solid if relatively uninspired. The one exception is Catherine Tate, whose Mrs Ratcliffe, a sensible type of woman whose British grit is brought out by the absurd situations created by a world dominated by secret police and communist ideology, is quite well realized. Unfortunately the producers gave the film a big injection of arch humor that seems to have come directly from the Carry On movies of the early 1970s. At any moment you expect Kenneth Williams to come on wearing a garter strap and going "Oooooh!" He doesn't, and more's the pity, as this might just provide some relief from this ham-fisted mess of a movie.
Mrs Ratcliffe’s Revolution
DIRECTED BY: Bille Eltringham
STARRING: Catherine Tate (Dorothy Ratcliffe), Iain Glen (Frank Ratcliffe), Brittany Ashworth (Alex Ratcliffe), Heike Makatsch (Frau Unger), Jessica Barden (Mary Ratcliffe)
RUNNING TIME: 102 MINUTES
TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY
Instead, the moments of comedy are inter-cut with awful attempts at drama. The performers struggle manfully with the terrible material, but the days that you can make light of escaping over the Berlin wall by balloon or turning children into spies against their parents have well and truly gone. Audiences know too much about the horrors of totalitarian regimes and their efforts to keep their people in a state of terror to find this sort of thing even remotely funny.
Enough talent has been wasted in this mess of movie, don't waste your time as well.