The Duke is based on the true story of Kempton Bunton, a 61 year old
retired bus driver from Newcastle upon Tyne who, in 1961, was alleged to
have stolen from the National Gallery in London a portrait of the Duke of
Wellington by the artist Francisco Goya.
Director Roger Michel’s (perhaps most famous for directing Notting Hill)
film is a wonderful period piece that looks, in terms of its sixties
settings, absolutely exquisite. Helped in no small part by two wonderful
actors in Jim Broadbent who plays Kempton and Helen Mirren who plays his
long suffering wife, Dorothy The Duke is everything that is good about
British cinema. Much like Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast The Duke has a terrific
story and a wonderful ensemble cast.
The story sees Bunton, who is a bit of a socialist and believes that the
government should fund free TV licences for the elderly, heading to London
to press his case when he sees an opportunity to steal the Goya painting, a
painting that the British Government have recently paid over £100000 for,
the money that it took to buy the painting he believes could have been
spent in a way that would have benefited people.
Alter stealing the painting he takes it back to his home where, with the
help of his son Jackie (Fionn Whitehead) he hides it in his wardrobe. The
pair then send blackmail letters to the Government. The black mail money he
intends, like a modern day Robin Hood, to distribute to good causes.
The Duke is a wonderful feel good film that will melt your heart and have
you routing for Bunton long before the final credits roll. An early
contender for British film of the year The Duke is simply not to be missed.