Using ‘Tamara Drewe’s name as the title for the 2010 film in which she appears is rather like using “Iceberg!” as the title for a film about The Titanic. She’s the central catalyst for the entire plot, but she’s also the least interesting, least pleasant, and least likeable of all the female characters. Obviously Gemma Arterton is an incredibly appealing and talented comic actress, but there’s little fun to be had here, watching her play a desperate, defensive journalist who returns to her sleepy hometown of Ewedown, Dorset, to arrange the sale of her childhood home… inadvertently setting in motion a catastrophic chain of events that will ultimately claim two lives (one canine, one human). I might have had more sympathy for her if she’d been shown to have suffered some genuine trauma or disfigurement during her youth… but the large “beaky” nose they saddle her with in the flashbacks is so obviously prosthetic and implausible that it’s impossible to take seriously as an impediment. In the end she just comes off as spoiled and selfish, and thoroughly undeserving of a happy ending.
The true heroine of the piece is ‘Beth Hardiment’, the sweetly supportive, long-suffering wife/dogsbody of philandering novelist, ‘Nicholas’ (Roger Allam). As a writer myself, I’d give my right arm to have someone like Beth in my life… encouraging me, feeding me, cleaning up after me, and handling my taxes. A partner like that would be worth their weight in diamond-encrusted gold! Sadly Nicholas takes her totally for granted… but happily he is eventually punished for betraying and abusing her trust. Hurrah! In the past, Tamsin Greig has tended towards playing gawky tomboy types, in comedy shows like Green Wing, so it was a revelation to see her taking on a more mature and maternal role… although she does still get some very funny lines, here and there. Unfortunately, I’m so used to seeing her in slapstick-mode that I couldn’t help laughing when she freaked out over Nicholas’s dead body. I know she was flailing and shrieking in grief, but it still look kinda comical to me. Sorry. An honourable mention also has to go to ‘Zoe’ (Josie Taylor), the adorable Aussie pub landlady, who welcomes Tamara back to the village, and kindly encourages local hunk ‘Andy Cobb’ (Luke Evans) to reconnect with his estranged first love, despite the fact she clearly has a crush on him herself. Why Andy overlooks this “bird in the hand”, in favour of the harpy in the bush is anybody’s guess… maybe he just likes being miserable?
On the anti-heroine side of things, I also had a soft-spot for ‘Jody’ (Jessica Barden) and ‘Casey’ (Charlotte Christie), the delinquent schoolgirls who spend their free time egging car windscreens, and loitering around the disused bus-stop gossiping about celebrities. I know they cause a great deal of trouble around the village, and even commit a few bona fide crimes… but I find it easier to forgive them (as fictional characters) because they seem to be having so much fun with their mischief! And they do have the good taste to torment Tamara and Nicholas (boo!) the most, while sympathising with (and ultimately enlightening) Beth, so they obviously aren’t total wrong ‘uns. Jody’s crush on Tamara’s rock star boyfriend, ‘Ben Sergeant’ (Dominic Cooper), leads to a few rather iffy moments… including the song “Jailbait Jody” that plays out over the end credits… but the scene where she poses for Casey’s camera-phone while consoling the grieving dog-lover is one of my favourite in the whole film. Barden was equally brilliant and hilarious in Hanna, and is clearly a talent to watch… while her partner-in-petty-crime, Christie, may be a relative newbie, but she played the part with remarkable gusto, and is another face I’d love to see more of in the future.