Now is the era of the period piece, whether it be the fun, flashy, and less-than-accurate television series Bridgerton and Our Flag Means Death, or the more traditional Downton Abbey film. This recent modernized take on romance in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries has taken the entertainment world by storm, and the period drama Mr. Malcolm’s List is no different. Here’s everything you need to know before watching.
It’s adapted from a book and short film.
Mr. Malcolm’s List, directed by Emma Holly Jones, is a period drama based on the book by Suzanne Allain. The story takes place in Regency-era England and focuses on Selina Dalton, a woman who seeks revenge on Mr. Malcolm after he rejects her friend based on his infamous list of qualifications for his future bride. Mr. Malcolm and his list seem to be very much in the same vein as the lofty expectations both Jane Austen’s Darcy and Julia Quinn’s Anthony Bridgerton had for their future wives.
Allain self-published the book in 2009 and wrote the script for the story, which Jones later adapted into a short film for Refinery29 as part of their Shatterbox film series, which aims to bring more female-directed stories to the big screen. The short film, released on Refinery29’s YouTube channel in February 2019, helped Jones secure funding for the feature film that will premiere this July.
Jones is a self-proclaimed period drama fan, so expect Austen influences galore in this film. “I’m actually named after Jane Austen’s ‘Emma,’” Jones said. “I basically fell in love with period dramas from a very young age.”
It features a diverse cast.
In preparation for the short film, Jones was inspired by Hamilton to incorporate a cast of diverse characters and actors into Mr. Malcolm’s List. With this in mind, the original short film starred a cast that featured mostly actors of color, including Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, Gemma Chan, Freida Pinto, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Divian Ladwa, and Sianad Gregory. Later shows such as Bridgerton have also gone this route, combining traditionally white-centered narratives with a more inclusive and diverse cast.
Mr. Malcolm’s List has taken this one step further, making its story intentionally diverse without being completely “colorblind.” Characters in the short film and the upcoming feature film pay homage to their cultures, with Dìrísù as Mr. Malcolm speaking Yoruba and Pinto as Selina dressed with small paisley details in her costumes to reference her South Asian heritage. Despite being small moments, these references go a long way toward making the characters feel real and grounded in their cultures while still staying true to the classic English period drama tradition that fans know and love.
Some familiar faces will make an appearance.
Many of the original short film cast returned to the new feature film, including Pinto and Dìrísù as the leads, as well as Jackson-Cohen, Ladwa, and Gregory. However, some cast members of the film were new to the story as they join the feature film, including recent The White Lotus star Theo James as Captain Henry Ossory and Emily in Paris actress Ashley Park as Gertie Covington. Upcoming The Marvels actress Zawe Ashton took on the role of Julia Thislewaite originally played by Gemma Chan, Selina’s friend who is scorned by Mr. Malcolm and his list.
With its diverse cast and rich characters, Mr. Malcolm’s List is another great step for representation in Hollywood and is a total must-see for any period drama fan.