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Cannes Film Festival 2014

Love, patriotism and coming of age in Boorman’s Queen and Country

Still from John Boorman’s Queen and Country
Still from John Boorman’s Queen and Country

The latest film by 83-year-old John Boorman, an autobiographical movie called Queen and Country, looks at love, patriotism and growing up. It premiered at the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes on Tuesday.

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It’s 1952, Bill Rohan is 18 years-old and happily swimming in the river, in Shepperton when he’s called up to do his national service. It’s the Cold War, it’s the Korean War.
For Bill-John, it’s time to get out in the world, meet a range of men and a couple of young girls and fall in love.

More than 20 years after Hope and Glory, a film about Boorman’s childhood experiences during World War II in London, here’s the sequel.

With modesty, Boorman introduced 23 year-old Callum Turner, who plays Bill as “better looking than I was”, and Tamsin Egerton who plays Bill’s unrequited love, Helen alias Ophelia, “much better looking that the girl who was unsuitable for me”.

Of Caleb Landry Jones, who plays the rebellious chum, Percy, Boorman says, “He’s a rascal.”

Does he mean Percy or Caleb?

For British audiences, the comic references in Queen and Country delight: Dad’s Army, The Goons - “I’ve learned even more respect for Peter Sellers and the others,” says Turner - or simple bawdy barrack-room banter.

All film-lovers, will appreciate the direct references to Boorman’s influences such as Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon or Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca.

Dossier: Cannes Film Festival 2014

The film looks pretty straightforward, carried as it is from start to finish by Bill Rohan, who’s in nearly, if not, every scene.

Turner plays a sensitive youngster, loving and sincere, who questions the values of his parents through his experience in the army in post-war Britain.

The range of views expressed by the different characters on authority, patriotism and duty to king/queen and country “weave in and out of Bill’s path. There’s so much in it, but it seems so simple,” says Turner.

Queen and Country is also a film about love, and perhaps answers some questions about why we love what or who, we do.

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