Shiny Shelf

Tamara Drewe

By Mags L Halliday on 20 September 2010

It might not be a superhero film, but ‘Tamara Drewe’ is a great example of how to adapt a comic book to the screen.

‘Tamara Drewe’ is a Posy Simmons comic strip that ran in the Guardian’s Review section in the mid-2000s. It’s been adapted into a Stephen Frears film starring Gemma Arterton as Tamara, the young woman returning to her childhood village with a new nose.

Tamara is the catalyst for change in the village, innocently destroying the status quo not through her actions but through the reactions of people around her. Neighbours are horrified by her tight shorts (“I hope they don’t give her thrush”). Her ex is appalled by her rock band boyfriend, Ben. The village’s bored teenage girls hate her because she’s dating him.

The plot, albeit updated, may remind you of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’. It didn’t remind me though, as I’ve not read it.

I can’t abide Hardy.

The film makes the link more explicit. The neighbours, Nicholas and Beth Hardiment, run a writers’ retreat and have an academic, Bill, staying who is working on a life of Thomas Hardy. He’s also blocked, literally and figuratively, until Beth starts helping him with his book. Nicholas, meanwhile, starts yet another inadvisable affair with a younger woman. Bill helpfully points out that Hardy was also incapable of remaining faithful.

Beth runs a perfect middle-class house, like a photoshoot for Cath Kidson, She’s constantly on the move: feeding the Buff Orphington hens (“they’re not good layers, but they do look nice”), handling Nicholas’s fanmail and baking cakes. It’s a great performance by Tamsin Grieg, conveying a woman who is keeping up appearances through sheer force of will.

Grieg is just one of the great casting choices. Roger Allum and Bill Camp aren’t exactly like the Nicholas and Bill that Simmons drew, but they’re so close to the type that they are perfect.

There is, running through ‘Tamara Drewe’, a certain Guardianista smugness. The Aga cooker, the little literary festival, the writers’ retreat, Ben’s unhappy hipsters London flat. That’s not surprising, as that’s what Posy Simmons does: she observes and satirises the liberal middle class. (Her Guardian wallchart of Guardian readers remains both funny and alarming.)

Despite that, or perhaps because of it, the film really is rather good.

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One Response

  1. Mags says:

    You can see the Guardian poster here, but sadly not in great detail.