Clockwise (1986, John Cleese, Alison Steadman)

Clockwise John Cleese

In comedy Clockwise Brian Stimpson (John Cleese) is a state school headmaster with an obsession for timekeeping who is invited to give the keynote speech at a conference in Norwich. Yet his miraculous plans soon go awry when he is misdirected to the wrong train while his speech rapidly departs on another. In an effort to arrive on time and save his reputation he flags down a passing car being driven by one of his sixth-form pupils (Sharon Maiden). Their travels through Midlands Britain in a desperate attempt to make the conference are both funny and touching, particularly when Stimpson meets up with old flame Pat Garden (Penelope Wilton), in spite of Stimpson’s growing sense of desperation and hysteria. Eventually, when a bedraggled Stimpson finally takes to the rostrum to deliver his speech to headmasters from Eton, Stowe and Harrow, it is with a very different mindset.

Cleese carries the film, drawing on many of his Python and Basil Fawlty-inspired characteristics, but Wilton and Maiden add weight to the humour – Maiden in particular, as she turns from nervous pupil to the stronger of the two in the relationship, determined to get her headmaster to the conference on time. A very British script from Michael Frayn plays to the strengths of Cleese in the lead role making this a painfully, and thoroughly enjoyable comic romp.

UK / 1986

Director: Christopher Morahan
Writer: Michael Frayn

Cast: John Cleese, Alison Steadman, Penelope Wilton, Stephen Moore, Sharon Maiden