Gurinder Chadha (Pride & Prejudice) presents a swell-looking fact-based drama of India's partitioning over a six-month period in 1947, but for all of the accoutrements on the production, notably the lensing and costumes, its educational intrigue is diminished by little emotional verve (with one exception).
There's tragedy and romance in Viceroy's House, co-written by Chadha (maker of the ebullient Bend It Like Beckham), surrounding the arrival of the last Viceroy of Britain, one Lord Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville), accompanied by wife Lady Edwina (Gillian Anderson of The House of Mirth) and 18-year-old daughter Pamela (Lily Travers).
Stiff upper-lipped Lord Mountbatten in his new stately residence is to oversee the transition (assigned by Prime Minister Attlee) where there'll be tension amidst the upstairs/downstairs nature of the aristocracy and Raj with notables like Gandhi, Nehru, and Churchill caught up in what would be the formation of Pakistan.
Smoother telling would have gone a long way to make the fusion of the geopolitical and personal (a Hindu and sweet Muslim tenderly bond) more persuasive rather than serviceable. It's not a great stretch for Bonneville probably from his work on Downton Abbey but his beleaguered Mountbatten generally fits the bill. And, Anderson is fond of her liberal-minded Lady enough to demonstrate more depth than expected.
But, even with picturesque views and troubling ones from looting to refugees an important, albeit lesser known story doesn't have the impact it should have. Even with the director's connection to the events that at least adds a heartfelt capper to a more often than not lumpish and vanilla Viceroy's House.