November 09, 2021
Phoebe Dynevor dazzles as the factory girl who became a celebrated ceramic artist in this rather too feelgood period drama
The Colour Room review – Clarice Cliff story paints a bright and breezy picture
Clarice Cliff was the working-class girl who left school at 13 destined for a life of menial work in the Staffordshire potteries; instead she rose to become a celebrated ceramicist. Her journey from the factory floor is told in this entertaining feelgood period drama, a bright and upbeat film that perhaps comes over as just a bit strenuously cheerful in places. The director is Claire McCarthy and there is a lovely performance by Phoebe Dynevor (Daphne the debutante in Bridgerton), who brings a breezy mischief and stubborn defiance to Clarice, who we meet in her early 20s working as a “paintress” – hand-painting patterns on to the pottery.
Well, to hell with all that. Clarice sees no limits to her talent; she sets her sights on becoming a “modeller”, a more skilled role, traditionally men’s work. Her huge talent is spotted by factory owner Colley Shorter (go-to posho Matthew Goode); and you know from the moment these two clap eyes on each other that romance is on the cards. So Clarice gets her promotion, working under a sensitive art director (nicely played by David Morrissey). Some of her male colleagues make sarky digs – “what if she is one of them suffragettes,” one sneers when Clarice is handed keys to the factory – but there’s nothing too off-putting. Here and elsewhere I wondered if the film-makers have softened the edges too much, not wanting to risk making us feel bad or uncomfortable. Even the smoke chugs picturesquely out of factory chimneys.
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