As the titular housewife in Mrs Ratcliffe's Revolution, comedienne Catherine Tate bears the weight of the world on her shoulders. Given that it's her first major leading role, she plays it up convincingly for this refreshing comedy drama (supposedly true) that sees the meek Mrs Dorothy Ratcliffe transform into a floral-clad freedom fighter under the oppressive East German regime in the 60s. Although the plot frays slightly at the edges, it all comes together eventually.
Seduced by communist ideals, the capricious Mr Ratcliffe (Iain Glen) proposes that they, along with their two daughters, defect from Yorkshire to the DDR. It's an epic relocation, and there are perhaps too many detours in the story before Dorothy realises that, actually, living in a country where kids can't listen to rock music and there's a blacklist for eating Marmite doesn't offer the best conditions for family togetherness. That's all Dorothy really cares about, and so she plots their escape with the help of her brassy neighbour (Katharina Thalbach) and a rogue Stasi officer (Alexander Scheer).
Minor gunplay and run-ins with government agents are more for fun with the real intrigue stemming from the impending breakdown of the Ratcliffe family unit. The youngest, Mary (Jessica Barden), even turns informant and puts mum's little scheme in peril. Seeing things go kaput from the little girl's point of view fits with the whimsical tone, but director Billie Eltringham is forced to pull away and the story does suffer from a lack of focus. On the upside, giving more screen time to Mary's rebellious older sister Alex (Brittany Ashworth) prompts an engaging tug-of-love with Dorothy at one end trying to keep her on the straight-and-narrow whilst covertly bucking the system. Of course it all turns out nice in the end, but the film is pleasingly anarchic nonetheless.
Mrs Ratcliffe's Revolution is out in the UK on 28th September 2007.