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Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Kristen Scott Thomas and Patrick Swayze
Director: Niall Johnson
Rated: M

IT is probably true that some British housekeepers are battleaxes. But most of them don’t wield an axe, especially on unsuspecting neighbours.

Maggie Smith, as the sweetly smiling Grace Hawkins, has some secrets like this, and she needs to keep mum.

If you have ever seen that old classic, Arsenic and Old Lace, the one where two nice old ladies send lonely old men off to their eternal reward (or, at least, bury them in the cellar), then you will know what to expect.

This is a genteel black comedy.

We know from the opening of Keeping Mum that, under the sensible hat, inside the old fashioned clothes, Maggie Smith’s Grace is a psychopathic killer.

When challenged by the family she keeps house for that people just don’t go round killing people they don’t approve of, she cheerfully remembers that was the one thing she and her doctors disagreed on.

The family consists of the local vicar of Little Wallop (down Truro way), his dissatisfied wife, his emerging nymphomaniac 17-year-old daughter and a son who is continually bullied at school.

It is to the credit of Rowan Atkinson’s quite laidback performance as the vicar that he brings a little pathos to the film.

However, he does get the chance to perform some “Beanery” comedy, especially a disastrous spell at goalkeeping during the local football match.

And Kristin Scott Thomas brings more than a spot of good acting to the frustrated wife.

We know that she is a clerical desperate housewife when she becomes infatuated with her bronzed American golf coach Patrick Swayze, sending up his image.

It’s not as witty as all that. The comedy is often obvious.

But, on the other hand, an impressive cast make it a smilingly light night out.

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