The Amazing Mr Blunden is a nice bit of undemanding, traditional, festive fare with Simon Callow doing what Simon Callow does best
“Time is not a straight line, it’s more like a vast wheel on which we stand at different points, rarely meeting”
I’m not normally one for much convention but I do like a bit of traditional festive family fare in this downtime period between Christmas and New Year but despite the preponderance of content and platforms, there doesn’t seem to be much of it around, not least that is new. So credit to Sky and their new adaptation of The Amazing Mr Blunden for scratching that itch for me.
Based on Antonia Barber’s 1969 book The Ghosts which was also filmed in 1972, Mark Gatiss leads this version as writer and director, and also as star since, you know, he can. And it is a refreshingly different take on the ghost story as it takes place in both 1821 and the modern day, reconfiguring what we know as ghosts as time travellers instead, depending on your perspective.
We meet Lucy and Jamie, and also Sara and Georgie. The former have just taken up residence in a mansion of which their mum has just received an invitation to become caretaker from a Mr Blunden. And the latter live in the same place just 200 years earlier, cowering in mortal fear of their malevolent carers and so they beg Mr Blunden, who also appears in their time, and Lucy and Jamie to help save them.
It is spooky but never too scary. Gatiss and Tamsin Greig give good pantomime villain as the would-be evildoers and as the various foursome of kids at the heart of the story, Tsion Habte (Lucy), Jason Rennie (Jamie), India Fowler (Sara) and Spike Fern (Georgie) are varyingly sweet. The cast is blessed with some strong supporting character work – Vinette Robinson’s mum, Amanda Lawrence’s servant and Elliot Levey’s lawyer, plus Sam Barnett and Liz White too.
And though he can be a bit divisive, Simon Callow is ideally suited here as the bearded Blunden, warmly avuncular but also tinged in sorrow as his own story of tragic regret proves vital throughout. He adds to that lovely heartwarming sense that makes this really quite a lovely festive treat.