Falling for Figaro — British Film Festival 2021


Millie Cantwell (Australia’s Danielle Macdonald), a very successful fund manager in London, is passionate about opera — a passion her lover and co-worker Charlie (Shazad Latif) fails to share.  Millie has in fact long harboured a dream of singing opera herself.  When she realises that her dream is slipping away from her, she drives to an audition in the Scottish Highlands in the hope of becoming a student of the former opera diva Meghan Geoffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley).

Millie finds herself in a remote village at the mercy of the terrifying Meghan Geoffrey-Bishop and her resentful other student, Max (Hugh Skinner).

Does she have the mettle to deal with them both?  And can she manage life in the only possible accommodation — the local pub run by its taciturn owner, Ramsay Macfadyen (Gary Lewis)?

Macdonald’s Millie is charming.  Determined, well-mannered, and focussed, she holds her own in a situation that would daunt many, standing up to all kinds of slings and arrows.  These come mostly from Joanna Lumley’s entertainingly nasty Geoffrey-Bishop, who simply won’t tolerate bad singing, bad technique, bad habits, or bad anything else, and lets anyone who comes near her know it.

Hugh Skinner as Max Thistlewaite is perhaps overly intense and unnecessarily petulant.  He deeply resents Geoffrey-Bishop’s taking another student, for reasons that are never made clear, and so chooses to let Millie feel the brunt of his ill-humour.  A subtler performance would have been more convincing and perhaps given the viewer the opportunity to side with both him and Millie.

An enchanting aspect of the film is its cinematography of the bleak, wild Scottish Highlands, contrasting beautifully with the intensity of theatrical London, which underscores the tension of operatic competition.

Falling For Figaro is a feel-good rom-com with a predictable storyline, as you’d expect.  It does demand suspension of disbelief.  In particular, I suspect that everyone knows that to become an accomplished opera singer takes years of training and experience.  It’s a tough gig even for the most talented, rendering both Millie and Max’s rise through the ranks more than a stretch.

Falling For Figaro is a feel-good rom-com with a predictable storyline, as you’d expect.  It does demand suspension of disbelief in Millie and Max’s meteoric rise through the ranks to become accomplished opera singers without years of training and years of work experience.  Nevertheless, the film offers many delights, not the least of which are the voices of Australian-Mauritian soprano Stacey Alleaume and Australian baritone Nathan Lay, dubbed in for Macdonald and Skinner respectively.

As light-hearted entertainment, Falling for Figaro could be the order of the day.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

— MICHELE E. HAWKINS

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