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  R HD Closed Captioning

Richard E. Grant

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Plot Summary

Acclaimed actor Richard E. Grant's "Wah-Wah" is a semi-autobiographical "coming-of-age at the end of an age" story, told through the eyes of young Ralph Compton. Set during the last gasp of the British Empire in Swaziland, South East Africa, in 1969, the plot focuses on the dysfunctional Compton family whose gradual disintegration mirrors the end of British rule. As an 11-year-old, Ralph witnesses his mother's adultery with his father's best friend. His parents divorce and Ralph is sent to boarding school. His father, Harry (Gabriel Byrne), not only loses his wife (Miranda Richardson) and best friend, but also his position as Minister of Education with the coming of Independence, prompting his rapid descent into alcoholism. Now 14, Ralph (Nicholas Hoult) returns home to discover that his father has re-married an American ex-air "hostess" named Ruby whom his father has known all of six weeks. As round a peg as you could find in this square holed society, Ruby (Emily Watson) ridicules the petty snobbery of the restless colonials whose chief amusements are gin, adultery, and their foppish slang of "toodle-pip" and "hobbly-jobbly" that Ruby identifies as sounding like "Wah-Wah." Although Ralph is initially wary of Ruby, he bonds with her as his father's drinking escalates and becomes dangerously out of control. It's this chaos that stokes Ralph's inner turmoil, and eventually forges his creative mind.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 68
  • Fresh: 36
  • Rotten: 32
  • Average Rating: 5.9/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Rotten: Watching it is like trying to assemble a puzzle that's missing pieces: You can see the outline of a story, and some shapes fit neatly together, but there are undeniable holes. – Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune, Jun 24, 2010

Rotten: The characters may be based on real people, but they fail to spring to life onscreen. As a result, their histrionics often are laughable, like the over-the-top shenanigans in a Douglas Sirk melodrama. – Ruthe Stein, San Francisco Chronicle, Jun 24, 2010

Fresh: I admired the movie and was happy to see it but can think of two other films about whites in Africa that do a better job of seeing their roles. – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, Jul 7, 2010

Fresh: What the movie lacks in depth -- it's really little more than a glimpse of this boy and these people in this place at this time -- it makes up for in its well-observed details and sneaky humor. – Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jun 24, 2006

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

Ah, Miranda

Miranda Richardson is perfection in this film. I enjoyed it tremendously. Certainly worth renting!


This movie is spectacular on every account. The highlight of this movie is definitely Miranda Richardson. She made this movie perfect. You will have a series of cries, laughs, and claps throughout this film. I highly recommend it.

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  • $12.99
  • Genre: Drama
  • Released: 2001

Customer Ratings