By Meaghan Walsh Gerard
There is something of the world about Romola Garai. At 36, she has already seen a great deal in her young life. She was born in British Hong Kong and lived in Asia until she was eight. She landed her first film role at 18, playing the younger version of Dame Judi Dench in The Last of the Blonde Bombshells. In Atonement, she would play the younger self of Vanessa Redgrave.
While nurturing her demanding career—on screen and on stage—Garai earned a first-class degree in English literature. The fluency and ease she has with Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Thackeray, and other classic writers is evident in her performances. She takes her work seriously. And yet, she makes it look effortless.
Rent these five titles starring Romola Garai:
“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”
Based on the classic novel by Dodie Smith, this BBC production is beautiful, funny, and touching. Garai is one of two sisters coming of age in a ruined castle in the English countryside. Their father (Bill Nighy) is a famous author struggling to write his next book, and their stepmother is an eccentric painter and model. Their fortunes may change when American heirs come to the estate and begin courting the elder sister. Superman and The Man of Steel (2013) fans will recognize a young Henry Cavill and Henry Thomas from E.T. (who played Peter) all grown up. Also starring Marc Blucas (Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1999-2002)) and Rose Byrne (Insidious trilogy (2010, 2013, 2015)).
“This little war makes everything uncertain…”
Garai and Nighy are a father-daughter team once again, but in a much more uneasy scenario. War is brewing in Europe and England is in the midst of a hot, tense summer. Known as the Glorious Summer of 1939, it would be the last sense of safety they would have for at least a decade. As danger laps at the shores of Britain, the household frays at the seams, revealing something nefarious within. Garai is stunning and subtle all at once. Also starring Eddie Redmayne, Julie Christie, Christopher Lee, Hugh Bonneville, and David Tennant.
“I have been so busy managing everyone else’s heart.”
Emma Wodehouse is one of Jane Austen’s more complicated heroines. She can be disdained for her flighty and careless temperament but Garai makes her endearing. She is bubbly and intent upon helping everyone she knows find love. Even when she missteps, her heart is in the right place. This BBC Masterpiece Classic adaptation is a delightful companion to the unsurpassed Pride & Prejudice (1995). Also starring Michael Gambon, Jonny Lee Miller, Jodhi May, and Robert Bathurst.
“A new programme, a new era. And they want me as producer.”
The BBC created a show to underline their place in the mythology of broadcasting. Choosing to set it in the 1950s—the earliest days of television—The Hour centers around eager, professional producers and reporters looking to make a mark. Garai leads her newsroom and on-air talent through global crises and personal turmoil. It’s a travesty that the BBC didn’t make a third season. Also starring Dominic West, Ben Whishaw, Anna Chancellor, Anton Lesser, and Oona Chaplin.
“I would sing my song without a burden; thou bring'st me out of tune.”
Kenneth Branagh, known for his adaptations of Shakespeare, brought the comedy As You Like It to feudal Japan. Garai plays Celia, Rosalind’s cousin (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) and the two are inseparable mischief-makers. Like all of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, there are disguises, mistaken identities, misunderstandings, and happy endings. Also starring Kevin Kline, Janet McTeer, Alfred Molina, David Oyelowo, and Brian Blessed.
See all of Romola Garai’s films available from DVD Netflix:
Meaghan Walsh Gerard has been writing about films (especially classic ones) and books (especially gothic ones) for more than ten years on her site. She is obsessed with the art of storytelling and holds a master’s degree in cinema studies. Meaghan has been a DVD Netflix member since 2003. Follow Meaghan at mwgerard.com, on Twitter @mwgerard, or Facebook and Instagram.