They say the difference between someone being perceived as mad or eccentric, is just down to money.
Real life amateur adventurer Rupert Grey fits the second category, being fondly described by a friend as a toff (Toff: a rich, well dressed, or upper class person, esp a man). However Grey’s well traveled view of the world and his fellow man, irrespective of creed or station, transcends this broad stereotype.
One could argue there might be simpler ways to send a love letter to your wife of 35 years (Jan Grey), but if it was easy everyone would be doing it.
The documentary follows the travels of leading copyright lawyer Grey and his wife, as they drive for six months and 8,000km’s across the breadth of India in a 1936 vintage Rolls Royce. Their final destination, the Chobi Mela photography festival hosted by long standing friend Shahidul Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The film is a mixture of action, philosophical musings and recollections mainly from Rupert and Jan but interspersed with candid character interviews from their three daughters and numerous friends.
The trip comprises recreated scenes and actual video of the trip captured in 2011, with filming becoming increasingly sophisticated as the media picks up the couples story.
India is faithfully shown in all it’s colour, chaos and ever present poverty. Arguably an elderly, white, ex-colonial couple, driving an ancient Rolls Royce through India, might be considered tone deaf and yet, their arrival is greeted with smiles and joy wherever they arrive.
Rupert is not a man to take no for an answer and confronted by the byzantine bureaucracy entering Bangladesh, he bulldozes through until the answer agrees with him.
Of course not everyone attempting such a trip would achieve a media following, occasionally employ armed guards, star in a Bollywood movie and enlist the higher echelons of government for assistance.
Whilst the story shouts “white privilege”, Grey remains consistently self aware, despite friends suggesting such a trip can only end in death or worse.
The most insightful comments come from interviews with the couple’s daughters, who acknowledge this is dad just being dad, as childhood trips to Borneo, High Pamirs, Arctic and the Bay of Bengal can attest.
For armchair adventurers content to travel vicariously, there is much to enjoy here. The couple avoid pot holes, red tape, sickness, car breakdowns and armed insurgents, each crisis received with apparent equanimity.
To avoid any cloying sweetness, the film is neatly undercut with a few telling quotes from Vikas Swarup author of “Slumdog Millionaire”, bringing a sense of balance to the film.
Jan, Rupert and his prominently featured bushy eyebrows, remain likeable characters to spend 80 minutes with. The pair embrace the diverse chaotic humanity around them, creating friendships and joy as they travel.
Jan remains a more enigmatic character, acting as a strong anchor enabling Rupert to enjoy a life well lived, content to join him on whatever adventure comes along.
A hugely enjoyable left field love letter, cleverly disguised as a road trip, featuring an eccentric force of nature only upper class Britain can truly create.