Based on Winifred Watson's largely forgotten 1938 novel, Frances McDomand returns to the big screen in a screwball comedy reminiscent of 'Cinderella', as if penned by Noel Coward.

Set in pre-World War Two London, McDormand plays Guinevere Pettigrew, a straight-laced nanny who wears the extent of the country's economic depression through her dour dress sense and uptight manner.

As the opening credits roll we see the tangled and unkempt governess furiously fired from a posting; lose her belongings; and teeter on the edge of starvation at the soup kitchens as her day gradually worsens.

A new day begins just as poorly for the down-on-her-luck protagonist as life continues to put one over on her. Unceremoniously dismissed by her employment agency after a succession of failed posts, Pettigrew is deemed "the governess of last resort" as any remaining eggs in her basket are smashed.

Clawing for survival, and taking any opportunity as it arises (ie living), she manages to intercept the card of a jazz singer looking for a social secretary and so arrives at the plush apartment of Delysia Lafosse (Adams) under the pretence that the agency has sent her.

As jaunty, jazzy music warns us of the screwball, farcical scenes which are about to transpire, Pettigrew learns that she has been hired as a "social secretary" and that her free-spirited, ditzy employer Delysia is juggling three men.

Swept into Delysia's plush, socialite world Pettigrew indeed begins to live, as the title suggests, and a whirlwind day sees her help Delysia out of a series of predicaments; get a new look; and attract the attentions of Joe (Hinds) as her and Delysia's lives change course.

McDormand, as ever, is sublime in the lead role, gradually revealing new layers to her downtrodden character as she begins to allow those around her breathe life into her. Similarly fantastic is Amy Adams as the flighty, naïve, yet consciously calculating aspiring actress willing to do whatever it takes to achieve fame on the West End stage.

Ever-excellent Irish star Ciarán Hinds plays McDormand's love interest, and though his role isn't as meaty as it might suggest, he manages to draw the most out of his supporting part and brings believability to a marginally unbelievable series of events.

Short, snappy and fast-paced, ' Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' is perfect fodder for Saturday afternoon TV - unlikely to be remembered by most, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Steve Cummins