This film joins News of the World as the most charming film of this past year.
This is a tiny film that centers on the crushing blows that most humans experience. Regardless of our moments of joy and achievements, disappointment and loss always lurk in the shadows.
The Dig, based on a true story, takes place in England on the edge of war in 1938. Edith Pretty, a recent widow with a young child, regularly visits her husband’s grave to leave flowers. As a distraction, she hires Basil Brown, an excavator, to dig up mounds on her estate. She wants to find out what lies underneath.
Carey Mulligan is marvelous as she follows up her powerful role in Promising Young Woman playing Edith, a wealthy widow with a growing health problem. The loss of her husband has left her and her son struggling to find meaning in a world turned upside down.
And Ralph Fiennes matches her in every scene, playing a financially desperate digger looking to support his caring wife (Monica Dolan). Having been taught as a child how to excavate by his father, Basil senses that something important lies under the mound that attracted Edith’s interest in the first place.
There are a number of supporting performances that help give this film its emotional impact. As Mrs. Brown, Ms. Dolan fights hard as an aging woman trying to have their long childless marriage mean something. Lily James, one of my favorite actresses, is an archeologist helping on the dig with a marriage falling apart when it appears her husband (Ben Chaplin) is gay. She is then attracted to Ms. Pretty’s cousin, played by Johnny Flynn, who is being drafted into the RAF.
It gives nothing away to say that a large boat is discovered in a grave containing valuable jewelry and artifacts that were buried to honor an important Anglo-Saxon leader from around the 7th century. Do they sell it to make a fortune or donate it to a museum so that English citizens can learn from their past?
See the film for the answer and watch their wonderful journey.