If the critical and popular acclaim for Downton Abbey has proven anything, it’s that the British period piece will never, ever go out of vogue. Other cinematic and entertainment trends will come and go: super hero movies, fantasies about wizards and witches, and even 3D: all of these things will come to an end before they get started up again. But the British period drama and romance are always in style, and every year proves this meme over and over again. Better yet, they don’t have to star Keira Knightley (no knock on her, as she is a fine actress), as these films reveal the long tradition of fine English actors.
The curious title Cheerful Weather for the Wedding turns out to be more of a sentiment than a meteorological observation: Dolly (Felicity Jones) awakens on her wedding day thinking all is going to plan. Her fiance Owen (James Norton) is the picture of steadfast and well-bred English manhood. Something, however, doesn’t seem to be sitting well with Dolly . . . and lo, that something is revealed as Joseph (Luke Treadaway), a young man with an old heart with whom she shared the romance of her life the previous summer before he was shipped off to be a grown-up for all the wrong reasons.
Old flames showing up at weddings is not new hat, especially for Hollywood. Lately, they’ve take this tired theme and made it so we now have comedies about old lovers plotting to destroy wedding parties or undo unions. Joseph, however, is no such cad. He is anxious but willing to wait for Dolly. What she will say to him when the finally come face to face is what gives the movie its only sense of tension. There is a lot of pleasant small talk and harmless flirting, but the movie plays well because the cast is in fine form and the setting (a charming English garden with just enough sunlit dew for a Spring afternoon) is ripe with romantic possibility.
There’s a lot to be said for staging, and this adaptation of Julia Strachey’s 1932 novel gets it absolutely right in every frame.