Mr. Malcolm’s List

Review by Emma Fraser @frazbelina

Directed by

Emma Holly Jones


Freida Pinto Oliver Jackson-Cohen Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù


Is this another Bridgerton?


Captures the heart of Austen.

In Retrospect.

A reasonable blend of modern and Regency romance.

A charming cast bring out the best in this frothy Austenesque period romance.

Regency is back in style with a slew of Jane Austen adaptations jostling for attention alongside authors riffing on the classics. Mr. Malcolm’s List falls into the latter camp offering a slice of frothy 19th-century escapism bolstered by its strong cast and adherence to the era’s societal trappings, with Sope Dìrísù taking on a titular role cut from the same stoic cloth as Mr. Darcy.

The year is 1818, and Mr. Malcolm has been crowned the official “catch of the season.” Plenty of eligible society women are vying for his attention, including the starting-to-get-desperate Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton). Julia has been out for four seasons, and the cloud of spinsterhood hangs over her head. You can hear Austen’s echoes throughout this story; if Malcolm is Darcy, then Julia has shades of Emma but even less self-awareness. 

Author Suzanne Allain — who also wrote the script — effectively captures Austen’s social satire in Julia’s motivation and everything that follows. A love match might be the initial motivation, but Mr. Malcolm quickly spins into a revenge plot after Julia is publicly humiliated via caricature (the repeated references to this never stop being funny). Her childhood friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) possesses poise, intelligence, and beauty but lacks upper-class currency, and thus becomes a crucial part of Julia’s scheme.

While the overall dots of the story are easy to connect, director Emma Holly Jones keeps a playful tempo that adds to the overall enjoyment of watching these various romantic tropes play out. When the bushy-moustached Captain Henry Ossory (Theo James) joins the dating frame, it is game on, and his boundless energy contrasts the reserved Mr. Malcolm. Throwing scene-stealer Ashley Park into the mix as the uncouth Gertie Covington only makes the ridiculous sentiments of the time more pronounced. 

Shifting the setting from London to Mr. Malcolm’s opulent country manor will satisfy those wanting to revel in the era’s architecture, and the gowns don’t disappoint either. Costume designer Pam Downe underscores class distinctions in the sumptuous fabric choices and adds to the humour with over-the-top placed feathers. Later, the masquerade ball is a marriage of aesthetics that provides the perfect setting for the scheming Julia.    

Like Netflix’s monster hit Bridgerton, Mr. Malcolm’s List takes a contemporary approach to its casting within its depiction of Georgian-era Britain. Colourblind casting does negate the racist reality; however, this fantasy of Regency life is more in tune with Austen’s work than the recent Dakota Johnson-starring Persuasion. 

Ashton excels as Julia, capturing the fussiness and outrage this character uses as a shield to protect her heart. Oliver Jackson-Cohen serves as her comedic partner in crime as Julia’s cousin Lord Cassidy, proving he is equally adept in a lighter role as a menacing presence in The Lost Daughter and The Invisible Man.

Mr. Malcolm’s List isn’t reinventing the Regency wheel, but like any good end-of-summer fling, it is a pleasurable experience that ticks every box — while not outstaying its welcome.   

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Published 23 Aug 2022

Tags: Emma Holly Jones Mr Malcolm's List


Is this another Bridgerton?


Captures the heart of Austen.

In Retrospect.

A reasonable blend of modern and Regency romance.

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