Rating: 4 Stars
This is completely set in an English manor in Ireland during WWII. The Tennants (well, at least the mother and daughter-in-law) live there with a number of their servants.
The manor is effectively an island because no one in the house trusts the Irish. The Irish are currently neutral in WWII and therefore the inhabitants suspect that the Irish are somehow conspiring against them. Beyond this, the English, both the owners and the servants, believe that the Irish are barely human. This is most typified by the sole Irish servant in their employ. He’s a man named Paddy. When he speaks, there is literally only one of the servants that can understand a word that he says.
Beyond being isolated in the wilderness of Ireland, there’s all kinds of rumors that the Germans are about to invade and the unspeakable acts that they are rumored to commit, especially to women.
Between the German threat and the living in Ireland, the entire universe of the household has been constricted down to the manor itself.
Love is certainly in the air. Upstairs, the daughter-in-law has been caught naked in bed with another man (her husband is off to war), causing a furor among the servants.
The long time butler has just died, and a new man, Charley, has been promoted to his place, much to the displeasure of most of the staff. One of the maids, Edith, is not so secretly in love with him.
The other maid, Kate, apparently needing a man but having very limited options, is carrying on with the Irishman, Paddy. She’s the only one that can understand him.
There is some discrete implied sexuality between the two maids, Edith and Kate.
The cook has a rather sadistic young boy that she’s just started taking of. It’s rumored to be her illegitimate son.
On top of all of that, Mrs Tennant has lost a rare and valuable ring. There is much confusion as it’s found, lost again, found again, and hidden by the children.
This is, I’m guessing, the progenitor of all of the various English upstairs / downstairs comedies. The two classes coexist and must work with each other, but their upbringing and perspectives are so at odds that nearly every communication between them ends up in confusion or dismay.
In such a situation, you’d assume that the owners of the manor would have the upper hand, but this really doesn’t seem to be the case. The old butler apparently knew of the affair that the daughter-in-law is having and profited handsomely by it via exorbitant tips. The new butler has already started inconspicuously padding the books to make a little profit every week. The cook is not so subtly raiding the liquor cabinet. With the war on, getting any kind of help is so difficult that the owners are willing to tolerate nearly any indiscretion just to keep the manor from being shorthanded.
This is a pretty typical English comedy of its time. If you are amused by the writings of Evelyn Waugh, then this could very well be your cup of tea. Don’t expect too much in the way of plot development. Don’t expect too much in the way of character development.
The humor here is in the dialog and in the interplay between the characters.