The Austenian narrative of Regency-era romance takes center stage in Bleecker Street’s latest project, Mr. Malcolm’s List. Slated to fall under the categories of comedy, drama, and romance, the film is set to explore a somewhat familiar narrative but with the special touch of filmmaker Emma Holly Jones. The film is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by author Suzanne Allain. Published in 2009, the book has been through a previous adaptation, making its debut on the screen as a short film, which Jones also produced.
With the latest adaptation of Mr. Malcolm’s List being Jones’ feature directorial debut, the information which has so far been made public appears to set the film on the path to becoming a fan favorite. Following the narrative of a wealthy bachelor searching for a suitable wife, some may argue that the film follows a trope that has been explored time and time again. However, the cast, wit, and humor intertwined in the movie may give Regency-era romances a fresh approach. Here’s what we know so far!
Mr. Malcolm’s List: The Plot
The plot of Mr. Malcolm’s List centers on the premise of the classic enemies to lovers trope. The film, set right in the middle of Regency-era England’s marriage competition, revolves around the season’s most attractive and eligible bachelor, Mr. Jeremy Malcolm, and his search for a wife. Having an extensive list, presumably giving the film its title, of requirements he seeks in a wife, Mr. Malcolm sets out in his quest to find a spouse who ticks all his boxes.
However, in searching for a suitable wife, Mr. Malcolm ends up spurning the rich and pretty Julia Thistlewaite. An ill-fated date to the opera results in Julia’s humiliation within the ton. Unable to silently accept her rejection, Julia plots her revenge and seeks the help of her friend, Selina Dalton. Julia molds Selina to become the perfect candidate who satisfies all the requirements on Mr. Malcolm’s list. Her end goal? To pull the rug out from underneath the bachelor, revealing that Selina is not who he thought her to be. Although Selina initially goes along with the plan, things go south as Selina develops feelings for Mr. Malcolm.
The official synopsis of the film reads:
“When she fails to meet an item on his list of requirements for a bride, Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) is jilted by London’s most eligible bachelor, Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù). Feeling humiliated and determined to exact revenge, she convinces her friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) to play the role of his ideal match. Soon, Mr. Malcolm wonders whether he’s found the perfect woman…or the perfect hoax.”
Mr. Malcolm’s List: The Cast
Taking an unconventional approach to British period films, Mr. Malcolm’s List features a rich, culturally diverse cast. The leading Mr. Malcolm is played by Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, while Freida Pinto portrays Selina Dalton. Zawe Ashton plays the role of Selina’s best friend, Julia Thistlewaite. Other members on the confirmed cast list include Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Lord Cassidy, Naoko Mori as Mrs. Thistlewaite, Sophie Vavasseur as Lady Gwenyth Amberton, Theo James as Captain Henry Ossory, and Ashley Park as Gertie.
For actress Freida Pinto, the opportunity to play a role in a Regency-era British romance film has always been a dream. Having studied English literature, Pinto has always envisioned herself in a classic role. Expressing her excitement at finally being able to realize her dream, talking to Vanity Fair in April 2022, Pinto said:
“I could always see myself in the shoes of all those amazing female characters. They were defying odds in their time.”
The “color-blind” approach taken to a British period film in Mr. Malcolm’s List has been admired by many. However, it has received its fair share of criticism for not offering an authentic portrayal of Regency-era London. This approach has ensured the success of many series and films, including the popular Bridgerton series, in which many of the leading characters were those of color. In fact, season two of the series centered primarily on two sisters of Indian descent.
Color-blindness in Regency-era films has also meant a lot to the actors and actresses who have had the chance to bring color to the screens. Revealing the plight of colored actors prior to production decisions such as those made in Mr. Malcolm’s List, lead actor in the film Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù told Vanity Fair:
“There were no stories of color being told in those films. Many young, white British actors would leave drama school and get a period drama, and that would be their route to success.”
Also, pointing out that the struggle doesn’t stop after being cast for a role previously reserved for white actors, “I was conscious of not color-washing the story,” said Dìrísù.“I didn’t want this to just be a white character played by a person of color. I wanted him to feel like a real, lived-in person.” Freida Pinto also revealed the fact that, being Indian, she did her own research on the South Asian community in England at the time so that she was able to bring aspects of her culture to the film.
Mr. Malcolm’s List was announced in February 2019. However, as with many other films, the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on production, and the movie’s release was repeatedly pushed back. After many delays, Mr. Malcolm’s List will be released on July 1, 2022.