Much to the delight of Regency-era fiction fans, “Mr. Malcolm’s List” arrives on the scene to fill the vacuum left by ‘Bridgerton’ Season 2. The drama/historical film stars Freida Pinto as Selina Dalton, Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù as Jeremiah Malcolm, and Zawe Ashton as Julia Thistlewaite.
“Mr. Malcolm’s List” follows the story of a wealthy young earl who is eager to find a bride who fits his onerous list of requirements. However, when the caricature of a disastrous date between Thistlewaite and Mr. Malcolm is distributed all over England, Thistlewaite devises a game of romantic chess to recover from her public humiliation. In a comedic relief role by Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Cousin Lord Cassidy, the pair call upon their poor, yet gracious childhood friend, Selina Dalton. Similar to the trope of “My Fair Lady,” they teach Dalton how to walk, talk, and dance, all to the benefit of creating the “perfect woman” to entice Mr. Malcolm.
The leading couple’s onscreen chemistry was lacking for a majority of the film, save for the ending. Dalton and Mr. Malcom do share several scenes that are enjoyable to watch, but one of the strengths of the film is showcased in an emotional scene when Mr. Malcom speaks in his native Yoruba. The reminder that he has a whole separate culture apart from 19th century England makes the characters feel more real and relatable.
The friendship between Dalton and Thistlewaite endures a full arc, each woman changing their perspectives on love and relationships. They chastise each other by warning “not to be a namby-pamby”, but also engage in real character development as the movie progresses.
The cinematography of “Mr. Malcolm’s List” was stunning, especially by highlighting the natural greenery of the sets of Ireland. The use of light and shadows to showcase the stages of the romantic relationship was beautiful. Costume design paled in comparison to the pomp of ‘Bridgerton,’ but the similarities don’t end there. Pall Mall rivalry, themed balls, and invitations to family country homes in the anticipation of a betrothal will also feel very familiar.
Overall, Emma Holly Jones has directed an easy-to-watch film that has the main characters unlearn their pride and banish their prejudices in order to find love.
What else could we ask from a summer movie?