The Dig | Beautiful But Subtly Tragic

Simon Stone is not an actor or a director, as it is the case here, that I was familiar with. But the cast, Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman, The Great Gatsby), Ralph Fiennes (Spectre, Harry Potter), Lily James (Cinderella) and Johnny Flynn (Emma) to name a few were known to me. However, the movie’s story – because it’s a true one – or John Preston‘s book “The Dig: A Novel Based on True Events” are not events that I even knew about.

Premise: On the eve of World War II, Edith Pretty, a British widow, hires Basil Brown, a self-taught archaeologist to dig up mysterious formations on her hand, leading to a staggering find.

Review: This movie was difficult to watch, not because it’s badly made or acted, but because of the story itself. The trademark British elitism – and subtle misogyny of the times – is all over the story. From the beginning I could tell who was at risk of being f’d over. The more we got to know Edith and Basil the sadder I got. The minute I realized what this movie was about – since I went in blind – I was afraid that my suspicions were coming true. I knew that some great people could be but a foot note.

You can see it happening throughout the movie, how some characters are overlooked. You can sense the greed emanating from some of them, but mostly you can sense the love and respect. Whether it is for the job, people, or history, the love and respect demonstrated in this movie counter balances all these little cuts made when someone is belittled or simply ignored. It’s well balanced in that sense, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop but it never really did. We don’t get to see and experience the characters going through what we know is coming but we get to experience their joy at doing what they do best.

Not that I ever gave it much thought, but I didn’t expect a movie about excavations, archaeology to captivate me. Simon Stone did a great job but his efforts might not have worked if the cast didn’t pull their weight. I haven’t read the book but I’m guessing Moira Buffini (Jane Eyre, Byzantium, Harlots) who adapted it put in the work.

The Dig is a well made and beautiful movie. Not a swashbuckling tale about an archeologist, since it’s a slow burn, but it’s far from boring.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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