Usually I rail and rant when a film ostensibly ‘based on a true story’ makes changes, but I didn’t feel this way with this film. ‘Red Joan’ is based on the true story of Melita Norwood, who used her position as secretary at the innocuous-sounding Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association to pass nuclear secrets to Russia. The film has shifted the action to Cambridge University, and made ‘Joan’ a brilliant student, rather than a secretary. But in this case, I didn’t mind. It’s usually the most dramatic scene of the film that prompts the most egregious truestory-to-film changes, and in this case it’s the scene of an elderly woman giving a press conference in her garden. There was a fidelity both to this event and the impetus behind it, so if the producers decided to go for Cambridge scenery and a bit of a feminist nudge, that’s okay with me. Judy Dench doesn’t appear much in the film, which is a series of present day/ flashback sequences, and really the film belongs more to Sophie Cookson, who plays the young Joan. The two actresses are well cast because it didn’t strain credulity to believe that they were playing the same character.
My rating: 4 stars.