Lucan: frustratingly adequate
I’m young. I’m hip. Know all the cool lingo. I’m funky. Got the world ahead of me, and I’m probably enchanting. A prodigy of my time, I developed the ability to absorb vast amounts of information via reading, and even remember some of it too. Not so knowledgeable though to know much about the 70s. My only impressions being U.S foreign policy, The Beatles, and possibly Star Wars.
Unbeknownst to me, a chap called Lord Lucan was apparently a pretty big deal at the time (enough so to be in the running for James Bond). Being a professional gambler, he lost most of his fortune to his work at the Clermont. Surprisingly this caused conflict with his wife, creating a separation and vicious legal battle for their children’s custody. Having lost said battle, he supposedly started another by killing his nanny and attacking his wife with a lead pipe, in the kitchen, with Professor Plum.
The killer was never confirmed, Lord Lucan left town and was never seen again (only marginally suspicious). Lucan is split down the middle, with part one covering the events before and during the murder, while part two explores everything after. It’s a little perplexing why Lucan isn’t one feature length movie instead of two, hour-long episodes – but that’s hardly the problem.
The Lucan incident remains intriguingly vague to this day, akin to London’s Jack the Ripper. An unsolved mystery of ambiguous magnetism. Yet Lucan‘s direction doesn’t make the most of the riddle. Its aesthetic reveals its made-for-TV roots, which makes it look like part of the Downton Abbey/Selfridge cadre. But instead of utilising the subject matter, it plays out with a similar but dull disposition, instead of embracing a more thrilling style, as the history might inspire.
The script has a similar temperament. Sufficient at best, though admittedly charming on occasion. It persists in clarifying every point with ‘Captain Obvious’ conviction. It’s trying to play at the table of subtlety and nuance with a mien of sophistication like other aristocratic films, but tells a story with no alluring mystery and no lines to read between.
Rory Kinnear’s portrayal of Lucan is competent, as are most of the actors. Save for Christopher Eccleston, who plays the Clermont and zoo owner, John Aspinall, with a clichéd smugness and unbearable pomposity.
Perhaps one of the more evasive issues however, is the lack of a relationship between Lucan and his children. There is almost no time spent illustrating any love he has for them – simply word-of-mouth reassurance. Being the sole reason for the conflict with Lucan and his wife, the emotional believability is difficult to stomach when there’s scarcely any connection evident with the children he’s willing to go so far for.
Lucan is frustratingly adequate. It banks on its membership in the nobility club to get it through, but no amount of bow ties and proper speech will do that. It’s not even ambitious, though it clear wants to be something more than itself. It has not passion nor apathy. It is merely sufficient. As T. Roosevelt put it, “those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much…they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”