Dramatizing the 1947 Partition of India, the middling historical drama "Viceroy's House" finds Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) being sent to India as the country's last viceroy. He's joined by his wife, Edwina (Gillian Anderson), and appointed to oversee the peaceful transfer of power as the British Empire relinquishes three centuries of control over India and returns it to the hands of its people.
There's much debate over what form this new nation should take, and eventually a compromise is made, which will divide the land into separate republics of India and Pakistan. But that's easier said than done, and the ensuing conflict and bloodshed between the country's Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh populations puts everything at risk.
We also meet two servants in Mountbatten's Delhi palace: Hindu Jeet (Manish Dayal), one of the viceroy's personal attendants, and Muslim translator Aalia (Huma Qureshi), as the script (from co-writers Moira Buffini and Paul MayedaBerges) saddles its only major Indian characters with a contrived, melodramatic star-crossed romance between the would-be lovers.
The partitioning of India is an important story, well-mounted and tastefully told, but Gurinder Chadha's ("Bend It Like Beckham") bloodless direction and by-the-numbers approach lends it all an air of stuffiness. She packs infinitely more emotion into a much more personal story told over the end credits than anything we find in the film. I couldn't help wishing Chadha had chosen to simply tell that story instead.
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