This Blessed Plot (2023)

This Blessed Plot: this charming film, directed by Marc Isaacs, celebrates this disappearing England and its real people, current and historical.


by Alexa Dalby

This Blessed Plot

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

This charming film has a unique approach, as do all idiosyncratic director Marc Isaacs’ films, so how to describe it? Unusual? Different? Eccentric? This Blessed Plot (in other words “this England” – a quotation from the speech by John of Gaunt in Shakespeare’s Richard II) is a discombobulating mixture of fiction, documentary, drama with non-professional actors, Morris dancing and archive footage (Ripe Earth 1938). Its dramatis personae are supposedly real people. The naturalistic screenplay (yes, there is one) is by Adam Ganz.

Lori (Lori Yingge Yang), a young Chinese woman – someone who grew up in what she describes as a socialist society, very different from the one she is trying to capture on video – is making a documentary in the quaint town of Thaxted in Essex.

As someone from another culture, she tries hard to understand the locals (Arsenal-supporting Steve, shady Uncle, kind Maggie, playing versions of themselves), Englishness, English people, and English history and traditions. She gets caught up in the lives of some of the people she questions for her documentary.

The past and the present intermingle in a way that initially confuses Lori, such as when she is able to converse with ghosts, but she comes to accept this as she makes her film. We learn incidentally about the history of famous people (now dead) who lived in Thaxted and the continuance of some very English traditions, such as a Morris dancing festival, that are kept surprisingly alive here deep in the Essex countryside. Whilst it is fascinating to see a world that is disappearing before our very eyes, it seems churlish to also remember that Essex is the heartland of Brexit.

The people’s lives, emotions and their secrets that This Blessed Plot uncovers are intriguing and strangely moving, the sunlit summer landscapes are beautiful and there’s plenty of music, popular classics such as The Planets and traditional Morris music. What more could you ask for?

This Blessed Plot is released on 26 January 2024 in the UK.

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