Director: Christopher Menaul
Stars: Richard E. Grant, Sarah Brightman, Oliver Dimsdale, Susannah Fielding, Nigel Lindsay, Mia Maestro, Julian Ovenden, Emma Hammond, Tessa Peake-Jones, Hugh Ross, Stanley Townsend, Jack Walker
Adam (Grant), a rich businessman, puts on a performance of an open air opera in the hopes to win the affections of a famous conductor (Brightman). However, with this comes a company filled with an eclectic mix of people who all deal with various emotional problems. Coupled with this is a gardener who has a crush on a singer and his interfering mother, also the keeper of the house. These quickly interfere with the opera and cause the whole production to be chaotic.
After watching One Chance I was in the mood for another operatic film and I wasn’t disappointed by First Night. I love stately manors so the setting was great and it managed to juggle the cast to give everyone their own stories and arcs, and the way different plot lines blended in with each other was done seamlessly. The atmosphere was good too, especially when one character went wandering in the woods one night and overheard a lot of secrets. It gave the film a veneer of fantasy, the mood was such that I wouldn’t have blinked had she ran into elves or nymphs.
The relationships of the cast and production team quickly become operatic in nature and the tension and drama escalates, along with the humour. Each one is different and they all have their own set of problems, and I liked this because there were no weak links in the various storylines. The music was powerful and when we got to the dress rehearsals the costumes were vivid and colourful.
I do think the beginning of the film was slightly weak. A few characters are introduced but then they all travel to the mansion and are introduced again along with the rest of the characters, and it felt a bit odd to me. It could easily have begun at the house and wouldn’t have lost anything. The various relationships are all quite cliché as well, especially the main one – ‘man takes a bet to seduce a woman, ends up genuinely falling for her, woman finds out about bet, man has to win her back’ but I get the feeling that these sorts of things are fairly common in operas and despite the film being predictable in some ways it was still entertaining.
I liked First Night quite a bit. I don’t think it’s the sort of film that is going to stay with me, but I found the humour was sharp, the settings were lovely and the cast committed to their performances. The whole plot of it being set around an opera is a big plus in my view too. It also had me engaged so much that the film flew by and I was surprised to see so much time had passed. Good film and I’m going to be interested to see other things from this director.