Frankly if we wanted to watch a film about a group of the fashion challenged underclass scrabbling about in the mud looking for lost jewellery we would have watched CCTV footage of Gemma Collins wading around in a mud bath looking for her hoop earrings. As it is The Dig is a far more pleasurable viewing experience. Set in 1939 Suffolk on the verge of World War II it has Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes ) a small time archaeologist though he describes himself as the far less grandiose, ‘excavator’ calling at the huge country home of widow Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) and her young son Archie (Robert Pretty). In the immense grounds of her home there are large mounds and she has a feeling that something of archaeological value is there and she agrees to pay Brown the princely sum of £2 a week. It’s an England of an entirely different era whereas these days that pays for a sweat shop of kids working 100hr weeks to make trainers – which is terrible because, let’s be fair, working those sort of hours means the quality suffers – (You’re fired! – Ed).
Brown is a humble but dedicated man, passionate and single minded about his work and both Edith and Brown are correct in their gut feeling about what might be there although unlike our Editor who when he had separated from his wife during renovations on his house wouldn’t let the builders dig up the mysterious mound in his garden (‘You’re definitely fired!’ – Ed).
What Brown uncovers became known as Sutton Hoo one of the most important archaeological finds of the last century and it’s not long before the dig is commandeered by a one of the UK’s leading archaeologists of the time Charles Phillips (Ken Stott) a stuffed shirt of a man, pompous and pumped up with his own importance regarding Brown as a mere amateur. Calling in a small team of his own which includes a married couple Stuart and Peggy Piggot (Ben Chaplin & Lily James) and Peggy honoured to find that she has only been called to work on the dig because she’s slim and light on her feet rather than the portly mass of pastry and beer that Phillips is and risks damaging the Anglo Saxon burial chamber they have found.
But The Dig is far more than a gentle period drama and is far more about the fragility of the human condition. Edith Pretty is diagnosed with a terminal condition watched on by young son who promised to look after his mum when his father passed away and now feels he’s failed her mum, watching her deteriorate in a moving moment as he pours out his heart to Brown. Edith’s cousin Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn ) photographs the dig but awaits call up to the RAF yet she impresses on him that he must survive as her son will need him without revealing just why that is. The Piggott’s loveless marriage is delicately handled and Brown’s own marriage is nicely drawn with his wife understanding that his work means as much to him as she does. Brown’s insight on his love of the dig is that the past holds the key to our future and that whilst what we leave behind can echo forever life is fleeting with moments that we should seize. The Dig is a beautiful gem of a film.
Here’s The Dig trailer…….
THE DIG IS RELEASED ON NETFLIX ON JANUARY 29TH 2020