Parents' Guide to

The Duke

By Danny Brogan, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Feel-good British dramedy has language, smoking, racism.

Movie R 2022 96 minutes
The Duke movie poster

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This warm, light-hearted British drama is one of those films where the premise is almost too hard to believe. The Duke proves that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction as it tells the remarkable tale of how one man single-handedly stole a portrait by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya from London's National Gallery. The theft of the Duke of Wellington portrait in 1961 created a national scandal that was only intensified when the culprit began to send ransom notes. However, rather than being part of some criminal masterplan, the purpose of the theft was in fact to raise money for the nation's elderly people, who Bunton -- the man accused of the theft -- claimed were being increasingly neglected by the state. There were no guns, threats, or violence in this heist. Just a kind, passionate, if somewhat infuriating man -- especially to his wife, Dorothy -- who put the interests of others ahead of his own.

In playing Bunton, seasoned actor Broadbent brings plenty of charisma to the role. His quips and one-liners, especially when he's in the dock accused of his crimes, are genuinely funny. He's a likable character, although you sympathize with Dorothy, who has become increasingly tired of her husband's antics over the years. However, beyond dishing out the odd scolding, Mirren is not given a great deal to do as Dorothy. The untimely death of their daughter hovers in the background, with Bunton coming to terms with his grief through writing, but Dorothy refusing to even discuss it. Yet these differing positions are not fully explored, which feels like an opportunity missed. A carefree way to spend 90 minutes, The Duke won't feel like a theft of any precious family viewing time.

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