“Do you ever feel like you’re just reading about yourself?” asks Felicity Jones’ bride-to-be in Cheerful Weather For The Wedding, Donald Rice’s melancholic comedy of manners. “Like it’s all in a book from the lending library, to be returned when you’ve finished.” That sense of disconnection, of passions spontaneously indulged and then put back on the shelf, pervades this between-the-wars period piece. The gloom that settles over the country house, plus the fact that the bride is locked upstairs swigging rum as the ceremony draws near, forecasts an unhappy union, for reasons that drift into focus once Luke Treadaway’s brooding traveler makes the scene.
Rice moves his camera fluidly through the assembled revelers, many of whom are in a less-than-celebratory mood. Jones’ perky younger sister Ellie Kendrick bemoans her ill luck with the opposite sex, and long-married Mackenzie Crook and Fenella Woolgar lob lazy snipes at each other, as if even their mutual dislike can’t get them worked up. Meanwhile, bridal mom Elizabeth McGovern works the room, mixing barbed comments and crisis management.
As Jones frets and Treadaway gazes sorrowfully into the middle distance, syrup-hued flashbacks tell the tale of a previous summer where their mutual attraction almost took hold. The culprit, we’re left to assume, is bog-standard British repression, which is evidently so endemic to the genre that Rice and writer Mary Henely-Magill feel no need to spell it out. Treadaway conveys thwarted longing with enough moist-eyed conviction that Terence Davies should put him on speed-dial, but Jones’ motives for marrying a man she plainly does not love are only explored late in the film, and without much conviction. Mostly, the unhappy couple suffers in silence because in such movies, that’s what people do.
Rice directs the proceedings with a commendable lack of period stodge, emulating the template of Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice. But without a source as rich as Jane Austen to draw on, Cheerful Weather feels incomplete, caroming off previous stories without forging its own way.