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Country (1981)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Eton 1945. It is end of term, and schoolboys ceremonially leap from a high college window into a sheet held by their schoolmates. As they leap, Churchill's first election broadcast is broadcast on the radio.

The Carlion Estate. Sir Frederic Carlion returns from shooting pigeon. His assistant Faith attends to him, and the family rushes to a christening. Frederic's eldest son, Philip, arrives from London just as the christening is about to begin. After the ceremony, Philip greets his mother, Daisy, and they discuss the recent death of his elder brother. Daisy reveals that Frederic wants Philip to take over the Carlion family firm, but Philip protests that he has his life in London working as a journalist.

The family returns to the house, unaware that it is being watched from afar by Virginia, Frederic and Daisy's daughter. Philip goes to his room, and on the way encounters Alice, his brother's widow and mother of Robert, the possible heir to the Carlion fortune. Alice probes Philip about his intentions towards the firm, but he counters her pointed comments by revealing he has prevented two scandalous stories about her being published in the national press. He doesn't reveal what the second story was, and leaves her pondering this. On his way out, he also encounters Dolly Van Der Biek, a former lover of his father's.

Philip talks with Frederic, who confirms that he wants his son to take over the firm, and demands an answer to his proposal by the following evening. The Carlion board members meet in the billiard room to discuss the imminent election results, but Philip refuses to join them. They are interrupted by Faith, who informs them that horses have been turned out of the stables by hop-pickers and are roaming free.

That night, the Carlion ball is in full swing, but Frederic broods about the stables. At the ball, Philip has a loaded conversation with Faith, in which he suggests that he will soon need a wife. They are interrupted by the police, who counsel caution with the hop-pickers, especially until the election result is declared. Philip goes to the study to call his male lover, unaware that Frederic and Dolly are sitting in the darkness listening.

As the family members retire to their rooms, the first election results are announced on the wireless, and by the following morning a landslide victory for Labour has been confirmed. Andrew Oliphant Sr. hurries to call his broker, but is stunned when he bumps into his wife Virginia. Virginia goes into Frederic's study, but he is more concerned with the firm's future. Virginia and Philip talk. She has been part of the resistance in France, and has been generally helping radical causes. Philip tells her about the decision he has to make, and she encourages him to refuse.

Later, Philip and Faith agree to an arranged marriage so he will be a suitable head of the firm. Philip also tells his mother that he is homosexual, but she considers that irrelevant. They are interrupted with the news that Frederic has gone to confront the hop-pickers with a shotgun, and he is brought home after a tense stand off.

After dinner, Alice realises that Philip is going to try and take control of the company, but he blackmails her by threatening to reveal the ignominious circumstances of her husband's death. The women leave the table, and Philip tells the board that the election results signal that the British people have declared war on the upper classes, and that the only way for the firm to survive is to recognise this and plan accordingly. The board agrees to Philip becoming Managing Director and Chairman of the Board. He toasts this with the new, re-carbonated beer that Carlion's is manufacturing, and that may hold their salvation. Virginia enters the room, and condemns them all. Philip tries to call her back, but she will never return to the house.

VJ day arrives and the hop-pickers celebrate on the outskirts of the village. Philip and Frederic watch them celebrate around a barrel of Carlion's beer.