Quintessentially British Image

Quintessentially British

By Alan Ng | October 3, 2022

You can literally make a documentary on any subject. The key is making it informative or, better yet, interesting. So I present to you writer/director Frank Mannion’s Quintessentially British. In this documentary about being British, members of the British elite (and not-so-elite) answer the question, “what does it mean to be quintessentially British?” Those questioned include Lady Carnarvon, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Lord Palmer, Lord Chris Smith, golf enthusiast Sir James Birkmyre, Ian McKellen, and Judi Dench.

Essentially Quintessentially British covers various topics about being British. The film opens with the general questions of what it means to be British and what makes these countrymen unique. The answers swirl around the notion that the British are a polite yet stuck-up people. Their humor is dry and ironic, and they hold to a very strict sense of etiquette for dress, respect, and good manners.

From here, the film moves from one very British topic to the next. Starting with the theater, Ian McKellen goes on at length about how he fell in love with theater and how it became his passion. He remarked that the most notable person from English history (past or present) was not a political leader but an actor and writer… Shakespeare (obviously).

“…answer the question, ‘what does it mean to be quintessentially British?'”

Filmmaker Mannion then moves to Savile Road, which is the British counterpart of Rodeo Drive. Shops like Dege & Skinner set a high bar for proper British fashion for men. Other topics include government and the difference between the elected House of Commons and the feudal House of Lords. Education is brought up, putting Cambridge at the pinnacle, though I’m sure Oxford would argue. Then there’s the sport of Cricket, where a match can go on for days, and fans would walk away happy with a draw. I could go on and on — gardens, men’s clubs, cuisine (most of which was stolen from other countries), and the gentleman spy. Finally, the documentary ends on the stumper of a question, “Are you English or British?”

Honestly, enjoying Quintessentially British is a matter of taste and interest. I love learning about new cultures (Yes, being British is a very foreign concept to this Asian-American). Mannion gives us a comprehensive overview of the subjects. If there is a criticism, the subjects, the predominantly upper-class, white male subjects, lack diversity. However, there is an interesting conversation about England’s burgeoning multiculturalism and a brief mention of Brexit (mostly against).

Though I enjoyed the subject matter of Quintessentially British, I think the film will appeal to anyone with questions about their British heritage or the culturally curious like myself. Is it life-changing? No, but the documentary will definitely broaden your knowledge of this part of the world that laid the foundation of this country.

Quintessentially British is currently available on all major streaming and cable platforms in the US and Canada.

Quintessentially British (2022)

Directed and Written: Frank Mannion

Starring: Lady Carnarvon, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Lord Palmer, Lord Chris Smith, Sir James Birkmyre, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Quintessentially British Image

"…appeal to anyone with questions about their British heritage or the culturally curious..."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon