“Can’t a man hate his own father?”
A gathering in the English countryside proves problematic when one of the hosts ends up dead. The servants and their respective masters become suspects as each of them tries to piece together who committed the crime.
Sir William (Michael Gambon) is surrounded by imposters and secrets. His dead body – stabbed after death, due to poison – becomes the subject of much speculation as the guests and a few bumbling detectives try to decipher what happened to him. Why stab someone that was already dead?
The reveal is that Robert Parks (Clive Owen), a servant, is actually one of Sir William’s sons. The late Sir William had a habit for frolicking with servant girls, but when women “got in trouble” or pregnant, as it was gently called back in the day, he would force the girls to give up the babies for adoption. Robert Parks, raised in England’s infamous orphanage system, worked out his lineage and planned to kill Sir William after securing a position in his home.
…But that’s not all.
The best of the best servant, Mrs. Wilson (Helen Mirren, arguably the best of the best actresses) is actually Robert Parks’ mother. She too is a watchful one and when she predicts the actions of her son, she poisons Sir William prior Robert’s knife work. Thus, her son won’t be guilty of a crime as insidious as murder, should he be found out (he’s not). The themes of Gosford Park are numerous, from the trauma of a man deciding the fate of a woman’s pregnancy to the childhood trauma implied by orphanages of old in England. Needless to say, there was a reason Charles Dickens wrote about them so much (for more on that, revisit my posts on A Christmas Carol). Less of a murder mystery than a comment on class systems, Gosford Park outlines the psychology of shared trauma and insinuates that maternal instincts do not dissipate during the process of adoption.