The History of Mr. Polly ★★½

Based on HG Wells’ novel of the same name, The History of Mr Polly is a comedy-drama about the titular Mr Polly: a quiet and stunted Victorian man who struggles to break free from his unsatisfying life and marriage. Spanning nearly twenty years the film documents his repeated dissatisfaction in life but thankfully always in a light and humorous way.

John Mills stars as Alfred Polly and he captures his timid and fanciful personality brilliantly. Although a very passive and directionless character he makes for a sympathetic protagonist thanks to Mills’ warm charisma and Alfred’s humorous turns of phrase. However, it is the character’s passivity that makes the film a rather frustrating experience. Things happen to Mr Polly due to blind luck rather than him driving his own destiny.

Whilst this aimlessness does provide a few laughs, particularly in the way he is even incapable of ending his own dissatisfied life, it can make the film feel slow. No doubt the story worked better in its original form as it was able to get inside the head of Mr Polly rather than simply observing his bumbling actions and the fortuitous consequences.

The History of Mr Polly is a genial, if slightly dull, little comedy that relies on the comic timing and Everyman charm of its lead actor.