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THE DUKE (2020, GBR) – 6.5 / 10

This humorous biographical drama, which was also the last film of the British filmmaker Roger Michel (Notting Hill, Venus), brings us the story of perhaps the most bizarre theft of art in history. It is about the disappearance of Goya’s portrait of Duke Wellington from the National Gallery in London in 1961, and a few years later it turned out that the valuable painting was “borrowed” by a 60-year-old unemployed guy from Newcastle, Kepmton Bunton. In the excellent performance of the great British actor Jim Broadbent, it is immediately clear to us that Bunton is one of those typical old sages and grumblers. He protests and laments against everything, and he is a kind of political activist and hard-working fighter against television subscriptions that no one takes seriously. Admittedly, he was taken seriously by the police because he ended up in jail several times for refusing to pay a subscription.


When he sees on television that the British government has decided to buy a portrait of the duke at an auction for 140 thousand pounds, Bunton will be completely enraged, believing that the money could be used for free TV subscriptions to those who can not pay. And so he concocted this eccentric guy who lives in this film in that typical British social housing with a cleaning lady (Helen Mirren) and an unemployed son (Fionn Whitehead) a plan to simply steal the picture. And indeed, this 60-year-old, who has yet to come to terms with the loss of his daughter in a car accident twenty years earlier, will steal a painting from a museum with greater ease than a cigo manages to steal copper from a construction site.

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Of course, there will be a big scandal and at first it will be thought that a group of professionals is behind the theft of art, and the question is what would have happened if Kempton himself had not decided to return the painting to the same place he took it from a year later. “The Duke” was one of those typical sympathetic, charming British humorous dramas about a silly and eccentric idealist. Although the story of portrait theft is more or less well known, Michell managed to bring some surprises, and it was the last film that this Briton, who is most famous for romantic comedies, managed to make before his death in the fall of 2021.

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