The Honourable Rebel



This British biopic tells the fascinating story of The Hon. Elizabeth Montagu (1909 -2002) who, despite growing up in Beaulieu, led a life far removed from the world described in Downton Abbey.

This is the kind of film that all too easily gets dismissed by critics who tend to look down on works aimed first and foremost at an older audience, especially if that audience is largely female. Admittedly it is the case here that in drawing on the autobiography of Elizabeth Montagu the film does have a screenplay with a sprinkling of weak lines, but in general this is undoubtedly a film that will give much pleasure to the right audience. It is aided in that by its choice of leading lady, Dorothea Myer-Bennett: she captures the assurance born of class that made Elizabeth Montagu act as she did, while also giving a persuasive portrayal of her strength and determination to live life on her own terms.

Director Mike Fraser tells the story chronologically, but with the addition of passing comments by friends and family inserted while the dramatic narrative plays out. After a childhood during which she lost her mother at the age of ten, Lisa (as she became known) took to the stage, studied the piano and then, during the Second World War, drove an ambulance, made a hazardous escape from France and became involved in espionage. Post-war she moved in music circles, worked for Korda and wrote an opera libretto. While fitting all this in (the film gains from a well-judged narrative voice supplied by none other than Diana Rigg) The Honourable Rebel is also open about Lisa’s bisexuality and thus covers both her long-lasting love for Roberta Borgatti and her late but very successful marriage to Colonel Arthur Varley.


Honourable Rebel


For the most part this is ably played (Film Review’s own George Savvides has a supporting role), but the real surprise is the cinematic flair of Mike Fraser. He may have been in the British film industry for forty-seven years but he has been an editor and this marks his directorial debut. In addition to his sureness of touch generally, he has a feel for music. Lisa’s interest in the piano justifies the use of Chopin (with a Horowitz recording specially featured) but more unexpectedly a train sequence takes on extra urgency due to being accompanied by the music of Stravinsky. 




Cast: Dorothea Myer-Bennett, Montserrat Roig de Puig, Kenton Hall, Martin Wimbush, Rachel Dale, George Savvides. Narration by Diana Rigg.

Dir Mike Fraser, Pro Mike Fraser, Screenplay Mike Fraser and Mary Stewart-David, from Charles Mosley’s treatment based on Elizabeth Montagu’s book, Ph Peter Edwards, Pro Des Andrew Howe-Davies, Ed Rab Wilson, Costumes Caroline Pitcher.

THRthefilm-Miracle Communications.
97 mins. UK. 2015. Rel: 4 December 2015. Cert. PG.