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USA 1995
Directed by
Michael Hoffman
117 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


By Hollywood standards Restoration is an unusual if not particularly satisfying film that abruptly lurches from lavish costume frolic to melodrama. It is particularly odd to see the likes of Meg Ryan, Robert Downey Jr. and Hugh Grant in parts normally reserved for better-credentialled English thespians but clearly a certain “post-modern” frisson was intended

Robert Downey Jr  plays Robert Merivel, an ambitious 16th century physician who is summoned to the court of King Charles II (played by Sam Neill).  After he saves the life of one the King's spaniels he is elevated to the post of court physician and is ordered to marry one of the King's mistresses (Polly Walker) in order to divert the suspicions of another of the monarch's mistresses.  Against the King’s orders Merivel falls in love with his new wife and is cast out and after various adventures his sense of vocation rekindles  thanks to a Quaker doctor (David Thewlis) who urges him to resume serious medicine.

Part Steven Spielberg, part Peter Greenaway Restoration, with its marvellously excessive costume and production design, is an odd-looking film, even the outdoor scenes, shot in England and Wales, looking strangely non-naturalistic.  Strange to say, however, it was a reasonable commercial success and understandably picked up Oscars for Art Direction and Costume Design.




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