Mr Malcolm’s List Review

Mr Malcolm's List
London, 1818. When Julia (Zawe Ashton) fails to fulfil an entry on his list of requirements for a suitable bride, Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù) publicly spurns her. Humiliated, she enlists her childhood friend Selina (Freida Pinto) for a revenge scheme against the eligible bachelor, but it may have unintended results.   

by Amon Warmann |

Back in 2019, The Personal History Of David Copperfield made waves for its colourblind casting of Dev Patel in the lead role. Mr. Malcolm’s List proves to be another example of the delightful payoffs that can ensue from such an approach. Based on the romance novel by Suzanne Allain, director Emma Holly Jones has expanded on her 2019 short film for her big-screen debut, and it features a host of meet-cutes, sumptuous costumes, and sharp musings on love that are all enriched by her diverse cast.

Though it takes place some 200 years before our present, there’s much about Mr. Malcolm’s List that still rings true today. In the era of dating apps like Hinge, we all have our own lists of requirements for a perfect partner. The astute point that Jones’ film makes is that love can sometimes stem from places, moments and people you don’t see coming and can’t plan for. If you’re not open to that possibility, you may miss out on something great. As the characters we follow slowly but surely figure that out for themselves, you won’t be surprised by who ends up with whom, and the conclusion is all too neat and tidy. But you’ll be swept up in it all the same thanks to the excellent performances.

Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù is charming as the somewhat arrogant Mr. Malcolm, and his chemistry with Freida Pinto is palpable in their playful and funny interactions. The comedic timing of Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s Lord Cassidy is a consistent highlight, too, as is the scene-stealing Ashley Park as Gertie Covington, whose near-constant giggles are a frequent delight. It’s Zawe Ashton who is the movie’s clear MVP though; in addition to providing many laugh-out-loud moments, the emotional layers she adds to Julia means you root for her to find love in spite of her manipulations and vanity. Ashton came in at late notice when another actor dropped out, but the role ends up feeling tailor-made for her.

The charming performances make this a win for colourblind casting. On the list of period romcom requirements, the sweet love story ticks all the right boxes.
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