Art & Culture

Dear Kristin Scott Thomas,

As you know, you are the last word in beauty, intelligence, talent and general cinematic genius, so it is with some sense of nervousness that I suggest that you run the risk of overexposure.

34 years in the last dozen years averages out at about 3 films a year, and when they bunch together as they have recently (Woman In The Fifth, Bel Ami and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, with In Your Hands on the way), it’s possible for some people – though not me, obviously – to have a slight feeling of KST overload.

Of course, you are in demand on both sides of the Atlantic and the Channel, being fluent in French, English and, at a pinch, American. Though it’s a while since you ventured Hollywoodwards, perhaps warned off by having to be the successive love object of former golden boys Robert Redford – 24 years older, and Harrison Ford – 18 years older – in the direnesses that were The Horse Whisperer and Random Hearts. Twice bitten, permanently shy, we hope.

And it’s not that you’re anything other than wonderful in most of what you do, but the films themselves may not be quite worthy of your brilliance. SFITY, for example, is a case of the bland leading the bland, with you as the only tart flavour in a  saccharine confection. And even then, your character is a pale version of Malcolm Tucker. Bel Ami requires you to fall arse over tit in love with Robert Pattinson, then be distraught when he casts you aside. While it is true that the pretence of falling for Patticake is worthy of an Oscar, he’s so far beneath you, that it’s demeaning to have to watch you make the effort. And while I wanted very much to like WITF, your femme mysterieuse is once again required to conceive a desperate passion for a king-sized weed, aka Ethan Hawke, which is a horrible sights to dedicated fans, like moi.

Moving swiftly on to your triumphs, I shall choose a few of your lesser known parts, in the hope of encouraging your less ardent admirers to see what they’ve missed. Not many people, for example, know that you’ve been married to Colin Firth, on screen, in the underrated Easy Virtue. Veronica Whittaker (your character) is on the one hand, a sour bitter and frustrated control freak, who tries to micromanage her daughter’s lives, takes out her rancour on her husband, and is horrified when her darling soon brings home an older woman who is both American and previously married. This is the 1930s after all. What is so good about your performance is that you allow us to see the woman she once was and might have been, and the hurt behind the hatred.

Going back even further, the even less seen Angels and Insects allows you to reveal another facet of your talent. Matty Crompton is governess to the awful Alabaster family in late Victorian England, when naturalist Stephen Dillane marries daughter Patsy Kensit. Your character is the opposite of Veronica Whittaker, passionate, suppressed, eager and refusing to be tied down by the conventions of her time. Interesting to see that your costar Douglas Henshall recently appeared on stage with you in Pinter’s Betrayal.

My third choice is better known, but again, a complete change of pace and role. Aunt Mimi in Nowhere Boy. She is the bedrock of John Lennon’s life, and has to endure his sudden unexpected attachment to his mother (who has been out of the picture for a long time). You convey her affection, masked by strictness, and absolute devotion and loyalty to her nephew, who was in every other sense her own son. There’s no glamour, no sex appeal, just a really credible and wonderful character who we wish we could have known.

Of course there are numerous other high points, such as Il Y a Longtemps Que Je T’aime/I’ve Loved You So Long, as a woman weighted down with grief and guilt, and as Lady Anne in Richard III alongside Ian McKellen. Because it’s your versatility as much as or more than your intelligence and beauty that makes you stand out as one of the preeminent actresses of the last 25 years. Even in Four Weddings and a Funeral and The English Patient, the big hits that make your name (in the latter of which you were also married to Colin Firth, though on neither occasion did he appreciate you, silly boy) you are wonderfully luminous and sparkling, with those little barbs of wit and self-awareness that make you so irresistible.

I hope I’ve made it clear that my admiration is unconditional. And that therefore my comment about having too much of a good thing is supportive rather than critical. Have a holiday. Go fishing. But not salmon fishing, and not for too long.

By Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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