Written by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) and starring our favourite Countess, Elizabeth McGovern, this gentle bio pic of female friendship and emancipation delivers what it promises.
The Chaperone is based on a true story and how much strays from the facts doesn’t feel like it really matters. Although there is a star in the story, silent film star Louise Brooks (a mesmerising Hayley Lu Richardson), she is there to add colour and context to the tale of Norma Carlisle (McGovern), the woman who volunteers to chaperone the 16-year-old Brooks when she gets the chance to leave backwater Wichita for a modern dance school in New York.
Carlisle, we soon find out, has reasons to escape her respectable life. As an orphan, one of many sent by train from New York to rural America in order to find a home, she feels incomplete without knowing who her biological parents are. Her journey crosses paths with a German, Joseph (Géza Röhrig), who is struggling to make a life in 20s New York where memories of the Great War are still fresh.
Refreshingly, this is a story about a friendship between two women that doesn’t pit them against each other. They are different generations but both know to hide their damage, their vulnerability as women. Everything about the film is pleasant and engaging. Some more contentious topics are touched on – civil rights, homosexuality, women’s rights – but are kept superficial. This is essentially a story about the limitations placed onto white women at a time when freedom for them to vote, work and divorce was still new.
It’s unlikely that this film will change your view of the world but it’s a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.