Monday, March 14, 2022



Screenplay by Richard Bean, Clive Coleman

Directed by Roger Michell

Coming to Canberra cinemas 31 March 2022


Previewed by Len Power 24 February 2022


In 1961, a 60 year old Newcastle, England taxi driver, Kempton Bunton, stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke Of Wellington from the National Gallery in London.  It was the first (and remains the only) theft in the Gallery’s history.  Why Bunton stole the painting and what happened afterwards forms the basis of a fine movie which is funny, surprising and sad.

 Made in 2020, the film’s release was delayed until now due to the Covid pandemic.  It was the last film directed by Roger Michell before his death in 2021.  He is probably best known as the director of ‘Notting Hill’ in 1999 with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant.

The film shows an impressive attention to period detail in its depiction of a run-down, poverty-stricken area of Newcastle.  Jim Broadbent gives a very fine performance as Kempton Bunton, a man who spends much of his time writing plays that never get produced.  Unable to keep a job for any length of time, he is slowly driving his wife, played by Helen Mirren, up the wall.

Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent pose with 'The Duke'

Mirren is almost unrecognizable as the downtrodden, hard-working and exasperated wife.  Her performance is superb and both she and Broadbent give an extraordinary realism in their playing of the years of frustration in this relationship.

There are some changes to the story for dramatic effect and the ending, in which Bunton is seen as a bit of a national hero, seems contrived but it is a very enjoyable film about a fascinating crime.

The film also explains a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Goya painting in the James Bond movie, ‘Dr. No’ which was not clear before.

 ‘The Duke’ is opening at multiple cinemas across Canberra from March 31.  You can view the trailer here:


Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at