An Awfully Big Adventure

Director: Mike Newell

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, among other Sundance favorites) returns with this darkly humorous story, set in the microcosmic world of repertory theatre in post-World War II Liverpool. In the quiet desperation of a dreary, bombed-out city, a repertory company’s heartless director, Meredith Potter, played with steely arrogance by Hugh Grant, rules his actors with an iron fist. Meanwhile starstruck teenager Stella (portrayed with wide-eyed sass by newcomer Georgina Cates) is eager to escape the doldrums of home life with her aunt and uncle and takes a job as an assistant stage manager. Naive and impressionable, Stella instantly falls in love with Potter and is caught up in the intrigues of the theatre company. When a local theatre star, P.L. O’Hara (Alan Rickman), roars into town on his motorcycle to save a production of Peter Pan with his legendary portrayal of Captain Hook, Stella is lured into an adult world where lust, rivalry, and petty jealousy reap consequences that are both comical and chilling.

In An Awfully Big Adventure, Newell concentrates on the darker side of relationships, delving specifically into the repercussions of emotional cruelty and vengeance. Potter is alternately witty and charming, then horribly biting and sardonic when the chip of an aristocratic life passed by sits heavy on his shoulders. The film’s humor springs from Stella’s ingenuous observations on life and love, as well as the detailed characterizations of the actors in the company.

An ensemble of shining talents, art direction that captures every detail of an era, a superb pace, and an engrossing story are the ingredients of a true cinematic accomplishment. An Awfully Big Adventure is intriguing and stylish.

— Christian Gaines

Screening Details

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