The Missionary

Watch The Missionary

  • R
  • 1982
  • 1 hr 30 min
  • 6.2  (2,568)

The Missionary is a British comedy film from 1982 directed by Richard Loncraine, starring Michael Palin (of Monty Python fame), Maggie Smith (Academy Award winner), Trevor Howard, and Denholm Elliott. The story takes place in London and the British colony of Sierra Leone at the beginning of the twentieth century. Palin plays Reverend Charles Fortescue, a clergyman who returns from his missionary work in Africa and finds himself struggling to adjust to the routine of parish life. When a wealthy widow, Lady Isabel Ames (played by Smith), offers him a position as her personal pastor, he jumps at the opportunity and moves into her luxurious mansion.

However, Reverend Fortescue's tranquil life takes a wild turn as he discovers Isabel's actual intentions. She wants him to help her in her mission to create a 'Penis-Free Zone,' a group of women who have sworn off men and are dedicated to social work. Lady Ames believes there are too many unwanted children in the world, and this is the only means to decrease the population. As a 'missionary' on this new quest, Reverend Fortescue attempts to make the project happen, but runs into several challenges, including the ridicule and disdain of his former students, and a growing romantic interest in Lady Ames herself.

As the film progresses, the story unfolds into a hilarious tale of misadventures where the Reverend despite his best efforts finds himself in one comedic situation after another. One example of this is when Reverend Fortescue attempts to encourage a group of girls to take up knitting to pass the time. He shows them the proper way of casting on the yarn and then proceeds to accidentally strangle himself with the yarn before collapsing to the ground.

The movie was produced in the golden age of British comedies and has a dry and witty humor typical of this genre. Michael Palin is excellent in the lead role, with his understated and dry sense of humor, and Maggie Smith adds a touch of class to the film with her impeccable acting. Although the plot may seem progressive and feminist-leaning in terms of the 'Penis-Free Zone', it is still a product of its time that some modern viewers may find patronizing.

The movie's production values are of high quality, with the locations, sets, and costumes accurately portraying the early 20th-century London and Sierra Leone. The film's cinematography is stunning, and the camera work brings out the flavors and beauty of the two geographical regions.

The Missionary did not achieve commercial success upon its theatrical release, possibly due to its dry humor and less-than-auspicious themes. However, it has earned a dedicated cult following and continues to fascinate fans of British comedies years later.

Overall, The Missionary is a British comedy classic that may not suit everyone's taste but is undoubtedly a time capsule of an era in British cinema. Its lovable characters, impressive acting, and well-crafted storyline will entertain viewers and bring delight to fans of dry and subtle British humor.

The Missionary
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 30 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.2  (2,568)