Skip to main content

Sophie Cookson stars as young Joan Stanley in Red Joan.

NICK WALL/Courtesy of Mongrel

  • Red Joan
  • Directed by Trevor Nunn
  • Written by Lindsay Shapero
  • Starring Sophie Cookson, Judi Dench and Tereza Srbova
  • Classification 14A
  • 110 minutes

rating

Based on a Jennie Rooney novel of the same name and loosely inspired by the life of British KGB informant Melita Norwood, Red Joan is a soft-boiled spy film set at the dawn of the atomic age.

Although the story sounds fascinating – subterfuge! centrifuge! pinkos! – the film is cold fusion. After a student delivers a communist-sympathizing speech, he is told his talk was “very moving.” To which he replies, “I wanted it to be rousing.” That pretty much sums up the underwhelming vibe of a fragile film that is otherwise well-acted, ideologically thoughtful and lovely to look at.

Story continues below advertisement

Judi Dench is underused in Red Joan, Brad Wheeler writes.

NICK WALL PHOTOGRAPHY/Courtesy of Mongrel

Judi Dench plays elderly Joan. After being arrested for espionage that took place decades earlier, her memories serve as flashbacks that begin in 1938, when she was a demure Cambridge co-ed, comely idealist and dedicated neutron enthusiast. Young Joan is played by Sophie Cookson, magnetic in the role. Dench is underused, though. The film’s suspense is waiting on the world-class actress to bust out some chops. It never happens. The spy who bored me, rather.

Red Joan opens May 3 in Toronto and Vancouver; May 10 in Montreal.

Related topics

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies