Film review – The Duke (2020)

The Duke

The Duke is a feelgood, allegedly-based-on-a-true story about the man who stole Francisco Goya’a Portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London in 1961. It is a finely calibrated film designed to deliver the cinematic equivalent of comfort food with its underdog tale of a loveable eccentric who locks horns with the establishment. It is funny, sweet and sentimental without ever feeling overly saccharine or heavy-handed, even when it increasingly panders to expectations and pushes credibility to the point that it is clearly taking massive liberties with the details. When done poorly this is the kind of film that gets dismissed as manipulative, but when done well it is immensely enjoyable to experience that manipulation. And it is a good thing The Duke does it well because if nothing else, it makes it a lovely final dramatic film for the versatile British director Roger Michell. Still probably best known for directing Notting Hill, which was a highpoint in the wave of 1990s romantic comedies, Michell died a year after The Duke debuted at the 2020 Venice Film Festival (his very final film is the upcoming documentary Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts).

Read and listen to the rest of this review at ABC Radio Melbourne