A Family Affair Image

A Family Affair

By Jordan Bond | May 22, 2024

I’ve always had a soft spot for British comedy. At an early age, I was exposed to shows like Mr. BeanAre You Being Served?, and Keeping Up Appearances. British comedy has a level of self-deprecation and absurdity that you often don’t see in its American counterpart. Writer/director Warren Fischer aims to tap into that tradition of humour with A Family Affair.

Edward (Joe Wilkinson) and his wife Helen (Laura Aikman) run their estate in the English countryside as a bed and breakfast that functions as a spiritual retreat for its residents. Sadly, the lack of guests and a slew of negative online reviews have put the place in bad financial shape, meaning Edward is forced to put the property up for auction. Still, Helen’s parents, Margaret (Jane Asher) and Walter, are visiting the retreat to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Edward’s father, Albert (David Sherwood), is also visiting while still mourning the death of his wife.

Also tagging along for the weekend is Albert’s friend, Jessica (Jazzara Jaslyn), who is much younger and seems to be something of a gold digger. Jessica shows interest in Walter, forcing him into a compromising position as she sniffs out which of the other guests have deeper pockets. Holding this mix of misfit characters together is Rhys (Colin Hoult), the resident spiritual guru. He concocts a tea that carries a calming effect, very calming… to the point of sedation. Edward and Helen must juggle family tensions, potential buyers of the property, the loss of their business, and guests who may or may not be under the influence of the guru’s powerful drink.

“…concocts a tea that carries a calming effect, very calming… to the point of sedation.

To address the obvious, A Family Affair feels like a modern version of Fawlty Towers, a British sitcom in which an accident-prone John Cleese ran a hotel in Torquay. Wilkinson’s character, however, is not quite the walking disaster that the Monty Python alum portrayed. There is a recurring joke of dripping water periodically falling from the ceiling onto the front desk. And while that is very akin to something that might have happened in that sitcom, this isn’t just full of wacky gags. Fischer delivers a message about the complications family can bring and the difficulties in holding together a rocky relationship.

Wilkinson is a great comedic actor and has gained some popularity across the pond in recent years thanks to appearances in Sex Education and Ricky Gervais’ Afterlife. He is at his best telling absurd jokes with a deadpan delivery. There aren’t as many opportunities for his comedic talents to shine as I had hoped for here, but Joe still had some funny moments. However, the actor felt restricted in being a more serious than comical role. Hoult, who was also in Afterlife, is great. The character’s subplot of tainted tea is the catalyst of many shenanigans. The actor projects a spirit of mischief, lightening the tensions between the two families and guests.

The written jokes are dated and might bring a chuckle here and there. A lot of scenes felt improvised and sometimes passed by without a good laugh. British comedies appeal to me because they often have heart in combination with good laughs. A Family Affair has the heart but could do with a few more laughs though what humour is here is funny.

A Family Affair (2024)

Directed and Written: Warren Fischer

Starring: Rory Acton Burnell, Joe Wilkinson, Laura Aikman, Jane Asher, Jazzara Jaslyn, Colin Hoult, etc.

Movie score: 6.5/10

A Family Affair Image

"…has the heart..."

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