Films & Schedules

  • The Duchess

  • Saul Dibb

United Kingdom
109 minutes

Production Company:
Qwerty Films/Magnolia Mae Films
Executive Producer:
Carolyn Marks-Blackwood, Amanda Foreman, Christine Langan, David M. Thompson, François Ivernel, Cameron McCracken
Gabrielle Tana, Michael Kuhn
Jeffrey Hatcher, Anders Thomas Jensen, Saul Dibb, based on the book Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman
Production Designer:
Michael Carlin
Gyula Pados
Masahiro Hirakubo
Catherine Hodgson
Rachel Portman
Principal Cast: Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell, Simon McBurney

Canadian Distributor:
Paramount Vantage
US Distributor:
Paramount Vantage
International Sales Agent:
Pathé International

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Before the notion of the “It Girl” existed, Georgiana Spencer, the Duchess of Devonshire, was the personification of the term. Married at a young age in 1774 to the powerful Duke of Devonshire, she used her wit, feminine wiles and innate flair for fashion to become one of the most beloved and influential figures in British society and politics.

That proud historical mantle – and the phenomenal matching hats – are donned with style by Keira Knightley, fast maturing into a key interpreter of the best British period drama. With an almost tactile sense of her character, she effortlessly embodies both Georgiana's charisma and her heartbreaks.

And the heartbreaks are many. Thrilled at the prospect of being married to the duke (played with intimidating reserve by Ralph Fiennes), Georgiana soon realizes that her husband's heart is not to be won by allure or beauty. She has both in abundance, but what her husband really wants is a male heir. As she loses the duke to extramarital dalliance and consoles herself in political passion, she crosses paths with Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper), a former acquaintance who still carries a reckless torch for her. Despite her mother's advice to weather the storms of marriage with “patience, fortitude and resignation,” Georgiana eventually gives reign to her love for Grey, and the full weight of eighteenth-century morality comes crashing down around her.

Knightley is extraordinary as the woman who rallied a nation to a new political reality while never having full sway over her own fate. This is a period film in which uncompromisingly lush detail meshes with startlingly modern portrayals of desire, defeat and scandal. The true story of Georgiana would resonate in British society for years to come. Grey went on to serve as Prime Minister, and nearly two centuries later, in 1981, a descendant of the duchess would walk down the aisle into a similar storm of celebrity, power and heartache: Diana Spencer, in her fairytale marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales.

Saul Dibb was born in London, England, and studied film and English at the University of East Anglia. He began his filmmaking career directing documentaries before making his feature-directing debut with Bullet Boy (04), which screened at the Festival as part of the Planet Africa section. The Duchess (08) is his second feature.

Cadillac People's Choice Award