Well, this was quite a surprise.
I have to admit that when I read the outline of this film, I thought this could be a long couple of hours. After all, an archaeological dig is rather time-consuming, and not the sort of thing that's noted for drama.
In truth, the dig of the film title plays as almost a backdrop to the far more fascinating dig into the human condition. This is a hugely enjoyable, life-affirming film. Especially as it’s based on real-life events.
Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes battle it out for best in cast as the two leads. She plays Edith Pretty, a fifty-something widow who lives on a large estate in Suffolk.
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She reckons there could be a serious archaeological find on her land, and she engages local, self-taught archaeologist Basil Brown (Fiennes) to investigate earth mounds on her property.
Brown is pretty convinced that the site is of Anglo-Saxon construction, which would make it one of the most significant discoveries in British archaeological history.
Fiennes plays Brown like a philosophical version of Ted from The Fast Show, and quickly develops a platonic relationship with Pretty, who is clearly still wounded deeply by the loss of her husband.
Like any tale of English people that pre-dates World War II and involves a lot of tweed clothing, it’s often about what’s left unsaid. There’s so much restraint on show here it’s quite touching.
When Brown’s dig uncovers a genuine treasure chest of great historical significance, the British Museum, represented with typical snobbish arrogance by Charles Phillips (Ken Stott), comes along to put a claim on the dig.
Brown’s work is initially belittled - after all, he clearly didn’t attend Eton - but Pretty makes sure he remains an integral part of the venture.
There’s a superfluous romantic sub-plot involving characters played by Lily James and Johnny Flynn, made all the more annoying by the fact that their characters are fictional add-ons to the story.
But, other than that, it’s simply impossible to find a fault with this charming, intelligent tale of time, loss and yearning.