The Gathering Storm
is a fictionalised portrayal of Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine during their wilderness years of the 1930s. It deservedly won numerous awards, including an Emmy, BAFTA and Golden Globe in recognition of Albert Finney's wonderful central performance. Equally deserving were those for all aspects of the production design: period wardrobe, set dressing and use of location are equally impressive, apparently ensuring that this production has everything going for it in its depiction of pre-War Britain. The snag is that its restriction to TV movie format, a mere 90 minutes, excludes a lot of historical context that ought not to have been left out.
Seeing Churchill's adoration of his wife (Vanessa Redgrave) or the family woes troubling Ralph Wigram (Linus Roache) is all very emotionally dramatic, but it uses precious screen time that might have been better devoted to highlighting the political situation abroad, or indeed the monarchy's situation at home. The enterprise smacks a little too much of sentimental contrivance, lionising Churchill in rose-tinted retrospect. True, some attempt is made to acknowledge the personality traits that excluded him both from office and popularity prior to Germany's re-building, but like so much else pertinent to the machinations of anticipating the war, these are glossed over for familial feel-goodery and button-pushing poignancy. This is a film that's easy to admire, but ought not to be mistaken for well-rounded history.
On the DVD: The Gathering Storm doesn't look or sound quite as crisp and clear as you'd hope for a recent TV-movie transfer. That's down to some obvious grain in the picture, and the 2.0 surround audio that tends to lose quieter dialogue moments. There are extensive cast and crew biographies that will no doubt help international viewers place the naggingly familiar British faces. There's also the accumulatively enthusiastic commentary from director Richard Loncraine and producer Frank Doelger, which happily points many of them out. --Paul Tonks
Albert Finney stars as Sir Winston Churchill in the years leading up to the Second World War, as he tries to warn Britain of the threat posed by Hitler and Nazi Germany. The film looks at his comeback from political obscurity and the personal sacrifices he made for his country.