If you are a fan of Netflix’s Bridgerton series and let’s face it who isn’t? But if that is the case, then you are in for a delightful experience with the upcoming film, directed by Emma Holly Jones and written by Suzanne Allain (based on her novel of the same name), and just a note that this story actually precedes Brigerton. It’s a more conventional sibling to the Bridgertons of the world, absent of any orchestral pop music covers or scandal that will steam up the screen, but there are still plenty of familiar genre motifs included to satisfy the most ardent of Regency romance lovers.
Mr. Jeremiah Malcolm has been long-talked-about in society, not just because of a fortune that would be substantial enough to see to any future wife’s needs but owing to the fact that he is in possession of a certain list. Said list numbers out each of the qualities that Mr. Malcolm is looking for in a potential bride, and any woman who does not meet with every single one of these attributes is quickly and summarily discarded. Unsurprisingly, this perfunctory method of courtship ends up making its way into the scandal sheets via caricature — as well as the name of the most recently rejected party, Julia Thistlewaite played by Zawe Ashton.
Julia reaches out to her childhood friend Selina Dalton which is played by the famous, Freida Pinto, with the aim of planning a scheme against Mr. Malcolm to get revenge for his poor treatment of her. Selina was to present herself as the perfect wife that Mr. Malcolm was searching for, but the endgame will involve her public rejection of him and reveal that he has failed to meet listed-out qualifications for a prospective husband. Granted, none of the conspiring parties involved, including Julia and her cousin Lord Cassidy, could have ever predicted what would happen when Selina and Malcolm actually set eyes on each other for the first time — beneath the moonlight and in the privacy of an orangerie — before either one is actually aware of whom the other truly is.
If that setting alone reads as particularly swoony, then you may be pleased to know that Mr. Malcolm’s List delivers on every one of the scenes between its romantic leads that are thoroughly infused with more yearning — even if they happen somewhat sparingly in comparison to the overall plot of the film. That initial chance encounter between Selina and Malcolm, in which the two of them proceed to have the equivalent of Regency-era foreplay in the form of a verbal sparring match, is the first of several between the two that deliver the right combination of tension and allure, and director Jones knows exactly how to frame each lingering instance of hands and gazes to build up the anticipation for what’s to come. When Malcolm places a gloved touch over Selina’s arms in order to assist her with finding her best shot in a game of pall-mall, or as the two of them gaze inextricably into one another’s eyes during a waltz at a costumed ball, these scenes are readily felt, especially because Dìrísù proves such a transfixing presence on-screen. A scene in which his character fights and fails to hide a beaming smile during his first dance with Selina left me utterly charmed and could truly solidify Mr. Malcolm as one of the leading Regency heroes right alongside others of the canon, like Darcy or Knightley.
Pinto’s largest efforts in her performance involve being torn between two conflicting but equally strong feelings, as Selina struggles with remaining loyal to a friend but falling for the man she has sadly already agreed to sabotage. There might be few real surprises over the course of Mr. Malcolm’s List, but that’s precisely the point. Even if you know what the natural end result of Julia’s misguidedly plan for Selina and Malcolm will be, the most interesting aspects of the film lie in in the journey through the highs and lows. It’s one of the aspects of any romance that the movie gets absolutely right.
This movie is definitely worth watchin specially if you are a fan of this genre even if the story seems predictable.