Gemma Arterton and Ian McKellen star as adversaries forced to take desperate measures to save their careers, in this scintillating tale of ambition and deceit in the theatre world.
Set during the rise of fascism in pre-WWII England, this scintillating tale of ambition and deceit in the theatre world stars Gemma Arterton and Ian McKellen as adversaries forced to take desperate measures to save their careers.
The year is 1936. As the new steward of London’s Chronicle, David Brooke (Mark Strong) seeks to revive the financially troubled daily as the country’s most-read family paper. In the firing line is long time theatre critic Jimmy Erksine (McKellen), whose extravagant prose and personal “proclivities” are distasteful to David. Jimmy has a lot to lose as an elderly gay man in a culture and legal system deeply hostile to homosexuality. Yet he cannot resist writing the flamboyantly merciless critiques that are his trademark.
Actor Nina Land (Arterton) — for whom the married David secretly carries a torch — is a regular target for Jimmy’s most withering remarks. As pressure to appease his employer mounts, Jimmy concocts a plot to entrap both David and Nina — herself secretly in love with a married painter (Ben Barnes). But with the Blackshirts taking to the streets amid anti-queer police raids, Jimmy may be grossly overestimating his ability to emerge from his elaborate scheme unscathed.
Directed by Anand Tucker (producer, TIFF ’03’s Girl with a Pearl Earring) and adapted by Patrick Marber (Notes on a Scandal) from Anthony Quinn’s novel Curtain Call, The Critic brims with intrigue — each of its central characters struggling within a web of blackmail and fraught desire to hang on to what they hold dear.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: violence, drug use