Brilliantly created, finely scripted, beautifully acted by a who's who of British (and American) character actors, amazing to look at, a perfect gem of a movie... yet strangely unsatisfying. Or should that read 'dissatisfying'?
Much as I admire David Hare for his skilfull stage masterpieces, I can't help feeling that he's created here a confection consisting of a series of ornate historical set pieces, rather like a Christmas present wrapped with layers of brightly-coloured paper and ribbon, at the heart of which is a rather sour plum. Ultimately, it's a cynical and sour-hearted film, giving Meryl Streep the opportunity to act her cotton socks off and in the process go totally off the rails in some style, but strangely incoherent too.
The narrative gave little opportunity for the audience to feel sympathetically about any character, only to allow the post-war nostalgia to wash over you like a wet sponge. Don't expect to come out feeling any sense of euphoria, though. Hare drains any positive feeling like a barrowload of leeches. Watch - but enjoyment is at a premium.