Shot on location in Ireland a few months after the first series of Netflix’s glossy period romance Bridgerton set tightly corseted hearts aflutter, Mr Malcolm’s List also dabbles in society scandal, class warfare and convoluted love matches among the pompous and privileged of Regency-era London.
Author Suzanne Allain rifles merrily through the pages of her 2009 novel for a frothy script that contemplates whether the search for a perfect partner can be manipulated or must be entrusted to chance.
Like its streaming service counterpart, director Emma Holly Jones’s film has an extremely handsome countenance and waltzes wish fulfilment around the ballroom, empowering diverse female characters to ignore stuffy gender conventions in the service of enduring love.
Cinematographer Tony Miller opens a chocolate box of swoon-inducing vignettes: lingering glances in a moonlit orangery, bonneted promenades around an impeccably tended park, a candle-lit masquerade ball, and a mighty steed galloping across green fields to reunite feuding lovers.
Bosoms heave (modestly, to ensure the PG certificate), ladies swoon and lovestruck archetypes couple neatly in combinations that are inevitable from the onset including a long-suffering footman (Divian Ladwa) and housemaid (Sianad Gregory), who despair almost as much as us at the upstairs machinations.
Mr Malcolm’s List presents itself as fanciful escapism with occasional zinging lines of dialogue and remains steadfast and true to that crowd-pleasing nature.
London’s most eligible bachelor, Jeremy Malcolm (Sope Dirisu), is keen to weed out social climbers and fortune hunters, who desire his family fortune.
He judges potential love matches against a secret list of 10 personality traits and accomplishments including an education based on extensive reading, a musical or artistic talent, and a forgiving nature.
Mr Malcolm rejects Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) for her lack of political nous.
“I will see to it that the honourable Mr Malcolm receives what he deserves,” she seethes.
With her cousin Lord Cassidy (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) as a reluctant accomplice, Julia beckons good friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) to London and entreats the clergyman’s daughter to embody Mr Malcolm’s ideal match then publicly reject him once the bachelor has fallen under her spell.
A spiteful scheme seldom unfolds as intended and Julia’s tangled web unexpectedly ensnares dashing military officer Captain Henry Ossory (Theo James) and giggling chatterbox Gertie Covington (Ashley Park).
Mr Malcolm’s List maintains a leisurely trot as misunderstandings are remedied and smartly attired protagonists learn valuable lessons about humility and forgiveness.
Pinto and Dirisu are well-matched – their on-screen courtship is undeniably sweet – while Ashton amusingly skirts the fringes of hysteria as a woman spurned and scorned.
Opening voiceover narration echoes Bridgeton’s waspish gossip columnist Lady Whistledown but thankfully, the superfluous storytelling device is abandoned thereafter.
Our rating: 6/10
Released in Ireland: August 26th
(PG, 118 mins) Romance/Drama/Comedy. Freida Pinto, Sope Dirisu, Zawe Ashton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Theo James, Dona Croll, Ashley Park, Divian Ladwa, Sianad Gregory. Director: Emma Holly Jones.