ill titleCharacters and Players ill title

One of the great pleasures of A Month in the Country is its cast, a roster of talented British character actors of the 1980s. Among these, the three young leads — Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh, and Natasha Richardson, dubbed by one critic “the best of the Brit brat pack” — all later became stars.

“I have a great fondness for actors,” Pat O'Connor said, after A Month in the Country wrapped. “They know I love them. The idea is just to get them to keep making their performance deeper and deeper and deeper. Because actors, you see, are terribly intelligent and have got wonderful instincts and are very brave. But if they don’t trust me, they won’t get what they can out of a role. By the end, you all have to die for each other.” He smiled. “Preferably they die for me.”



ill titleTom Birkin...Colin Firth

Tom Birkin is a young art restorer from London who arrives in a Yorkshire village in 1919 to uncover a medieval wallpainting in the local church. He is a War veteran. Shell-shock has left him with shaking hands, a twitch, and a stammer so severe he usually takes refuge in silence. As he has no money for lodgings, he sleeps rough in the church belfry.

We know few details about Birkin’s past, save that he has been broken by it. He is as destitute emotionally as he is financially. The film follows his slow healing.

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ill titleJames Moon... Kenneth Branagh

James Moon is another outsider in Oxgodby, an archaeologist hired to find the lost grave of a medieval ancestor in the field beyond the church.  Moon, too, is a veteran of the trenches.  He is so cheerful and talkative that it isn’t as immediately apparent that he is as badly scarred by his war experiences as Birkin.

[NB: In both the novel and the screenplay, Moon’s given name is Charles. It is not known why this was changed in filming.]

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ill titleMrs. Keach... Natasha Richardson

Alice Keach is beautiful, with a friendly, candid gaze.  She is married to the vicar of Oxgodby but has no work or children to absorb her.  The vicarage is outsized and empty.  She spends hours tending a garden of heirloom roses that no one else ever sees.

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ill titleRev. Keach... Patrick Malahide

The Reverend J.G. Keach is committed to his religious calling. However he has been so hurt by professional slights and disappointments in the Oxgodby living that he never notices that he has lost his Christian charity and compassion.

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ill titleMr. Ellerbeck... Jim Carter

Mr. Ellerbeck, the Oxgodby stationmaster, is the first to meet Birkin when he arrives in the village by train. He is also the first to offer Birkin sustenance, volunteering his umbrella and “Cup of tea? In the stationhouse?” Tensely Birkin declines both.

Mr. Ellerbeck’s sermons as a lay preacher for the local Chapel are thundering, fiery exhortations. But it is the Ellerbecks who gently refuse to let Birkin stew alone in his unhappiness.

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Kathy Ellerbeck... Vicki Arundale

Kathy Ellerbeck is a precociously self-possessed and authoritative little girl who proves ready to organize “Mr. Birkin’s” leisure time as automatically as she does her little brother’s reading material. “Me Dad says you’re an opportunity,” she informs Birkin.

Vicki Arundale is charming as the redoubtable Kathy. Her eyes twinkle over cheekbones as broad as her Yorkshire accent. She seems a real child, not an actor. Ms Arundale has never appeared on screen again, and no further information seems available.


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Edgar Ellerbeck... Martin O'Neill

Edgar Ellerbeck is dominated by his managing older sister, Kathy — but not entirely. “Or S’s for sick!” he offers helpfully, despite his sister's quelling stare.

Martin O’Neill gives an endearing performance. The critic Andrew Sarris singled out the “wickedly wide-eyed younger brother with a marvelous, mischievous round face.” Mr. O’Neill has never appeared on screen again. He has kindly contributed his memories of the filming to this site.


ill titleOld Birkin... David Garth

As an old man Birkin revisits Oxgodby. He says nothing, but his face says everything.

David Garth was a character actor with a long list of small roles in films and television. As a seventeen-year-old boy this British expat born in Calcutta published his first novel, an American western, which was bought and filmed by John Ford as Four Men and a Prayer (1938). Another western based on a Garth novel was produced ten years later.

A Month in the Country was Mr. Garth’s last work as an actor. He died soon after it debuted, in May 1988.