Starring: John Cleese, Penny Leatherbarrow, Howard Lloyd-Lewis
Director: Christopher Morahan
Running Time: 96 mins
Clockwise is a British film about a headmaster who, after missing his train to Norwich, undertakes a chaotic journey with a pupil of his to a headmasters’ conference, where almost everything imaginable goes wrong.
Well, this film is the definition of irritating. It’s a story where absolutely everything goes wrong, and although it’s such a cliché, the story in this film is so preposterous that you have to enjoy it as a pure work of fun fiction.
I have to start with the absolute farce that is the plot. Yes, it is an utterly predictable chain of ludicrously unlucky events that make you cringe at every step of the way, and it is a completely overdone, simplistic and repetitive formula, which could suggest that it’s not that entertaining.
However, in this film, uniquely, it manages to take those ridiculous events and really make them get to the core of you, the viewer, giving you seriously gut-wrenching pain whenever something goes wrong, and even though you saw it coming, it’s still unbelievably painful and irritating to watch, which is a clever spin by the writers.
On the other hand, the extent to which things go berserk in this film, such as people ending up randomly driving through a field on the way to Norwich (oddly via Northampton), or a silent monk in a solitary monastery randomly breaking his silence for comic effect, are just so ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh.
There’s nothing that you can actually take seriously in this film, and because of that preposterousness, it ends up being a hugely enjoyable watch, full of fun and games as you watch a man’s whole life effectively fall into a hilarious spiral of despair.
Another way that that atmosphere is kept up is the excellent performance by John Cleese as Mr. Stimpson. He takes on a sort of Basil Fawlty-esque role, in the way that he has to deal with all these horrible situations being thrown at him, but he’s just a little calmer than Mr. Fawlty, reigning in some of the ridiculousness of this film.
Overall, I’ll give this a 7.7, because it was a hilariously frustrating, gut-wrenchingly painful story that’s just so ridiculous you can’t help but wet yourself laughing.