The story opens in 1932, in the magnificent country estate of Tony and Brenda Last (James Wilby, Kristin Scott Thomas). Tony loves puttering around the old manor, while Brenda longs for the party life in London. Out of sheer boredom, she begins an affair with a social-climbing mama's boy (Rupert Graves).
As the title indicates, this is a grim story, the first part being a rather typical domestic drama focusing on the stuffy, idle rich. No one plays the snobby aristocrat better than Thomas, and she is so wonderfully convincing, you'll hate her. Wilby is well-cast as the dull but loyal lord of the manor who dotes on his young son. Graves is handsome and suitably innocuous. This section of the film exaggerates the stiff-upper-lip, passionless lives of the upper classes in contrast to the end, which takes us halfway around the world to a primitive land. This part was very creepy and left me cringing.
I love period pieces set in posh locations, so I really enjoyed this movie. It's beautifully photographed at the exquisite Carlton Towers estate. The acting is excellent and the odd turn at the end may leave one a bit depressed but still satisfied. Recommended.