A Midwinter's Tale (1995)

A Midwinter's Tale (1995), written and directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Aka In the Bleak Midwinter.

Out of work actors are often depressed. It's worse at Christmas. The only thing that will make them happy is a play, getting inside that theater world and assembling a new-found family around them. Forget the money: there isn't any.

Hamlet for Christmas? Whose idea was that?

It works: a fun, fast-paced romantic comedy with a wealth of eccentric characters and a look into the world of desperate actors. It has become part of our Christmas rotation.

I see a lot of movies but I don't understand actors: how they do it, why they do it. This is a good behind the scenes story because of the combined warmth, bitchiness, perpetual crisis and yearning to make a play.

Grumpy old actor Richard Briers (1934--2013) claims to have seen Henry Irving on the stage. That very strange performer died in 1903. Said to be the inspiration for "Dracula".

Brier's great subplot is with the flamboyantly gay cross-dressing Queen Gertrude, played by John Sessions (1953--2020). Told they will have to share a room, Briers says "Well, I can always sleep with my ass in in bucket". They become best friends.

Available on DVD from Warner Archive, but I had to download subtitles. The theater quips and patter fly by too quickly without them.