Cotton Mary review

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Set in the post-colonial India of the '50s, this lethargic Merchant Ivory potboiler casts Scacchi as Lily, the neglected wife of a World Service reporter (Wilby), who turns to Anglo-Indian nurse Cotton Mary (Jaffrey) when her baby falls ill.

Mary, alas, is a few onions short of a bhaji, abusing Lily's trust to obtain a position in her household. Enthralled by the British way of life, Mary becomes increasingly unhinged, plotting against loyal servant Abraham (Prayag Raaj) and terrorising Lily's seven-year-old daughter Theresa (Laura Lumley).

Director Ismail Merchant gives free rein to Jaffrey's histrionics in a ponderous meller which cranks up the tension before blowing it with a disastrous anti-climax. Elegant locations and period detail don't make up for the off-puttingly parochial subject matter or the ham-fisted symbolism (Mary's dementia is signposted by fluttering Union Jacks and God Save The Queen).

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