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by Richard Miller

The last two times Ellen and I posted reviews about films was in April and May of 2020, and all of those were films we had seen at home. (If you didn’t read or don’t remember either of those posts, you might find some films of interest in this link. (See: Our Movie Reviews Are Back, 4/7/2020 and Eight Films & One Guest Review, 5/9/2020). As you may recall, Ellen in particular, is not a great fan of watching movies at home.

Nevertheless, we kept trying to find films, generally ones recommended by other MillerTime readers. (See: Favorite Movies & TV Progams in These Times, 6/18/2020 and Second Rounds of Contributors Favorite Films & TV Programs, 8/25/2020). The few we did like were already well-heralded, and our recommendations would lend little to drawing your attention to them.

Last night, however, we hit on one that we both thought worthy of mentioning to others:

The Dig (Directed by Simon Stone, on Netflix)

Ellen rated it ***** and said, “it was the best thing she’d seen since the coronavirus quarantine began, and we stopped writing about films.”

I rated it **** 1/2 and agree it was the most satisfying film we’d seen in many months.

The story is adapted from a novel by John Preston and is fictional account about the 1939 excavation in Suffolk, England of an archeological site on the property of Edith Pretty, just as World War II was about to begin. (This excavation did in fact take place and has been called “one of the biggest archeological finds of the 20th Century.”) Neither Ellen nor I had read the novel nor knew about this ‘expedition’.

For us, The Dig hit on many of the factors that we like in a film: a good story that does more than entertain; one that educates and provokes; one with fine acting (particularly by the two leads Carey Milligan as Edith Pretty and Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown, the excavator); and a film that has wonderful cinematography with images that remain in one’s mind well after seeing the film. It is visually beautiful.

Perhaps the film may be more suited to a slightly older audience, one not looking for fast moving scenes and exciting action. The director chooses to move away from the main story of this coastal England countryside dig to include some secondary characters. Fortunately, he returns to his main themes of the discovery and outcome of this dig and questions of who owns history, issues of class inequality, and portrayal of British life, all done in an understated way.

You don’t need to know any more than that, but if you’re interested in some of the background information, you can check out:

The True History Behind Netflix’s ‘The Dig’ and Sutton Hoo, Smithsonian Magazine.

Sutton HooRecreating an Archeological Discovery from the Ground Down, NYTimes.