It doesn’t spoil much to say that Cheerful Weather for a Wedding contains little good weather and no wedding ceremony. However, the film, adapted from a 1932 Julia Strachey novella praised and published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, does begin with the promise of a turbulent main event. The bride, Dolly (Felicity Jones), is hiding out upstairs swigging rum, the wedding ring is missing, a young boy is at large setting off confetti bombs, and the dashing Joseph (Luke Treadaway) has arrived unexpectedly, much to the chagrin of the bride’s mother, Mrs. Thatcham (Elizabeth McGovern). It’s a fine enough setup for comic intrigue, which makes it all the more disappointing when the film turns tame and uneventful.
The reason Joseph’s presence causes such displeasure becomes clear early on through a series of flashbacks to the prior summer, when he and Dolly first met and fell in love. They were separated soon after, however, as Dolly went traveling with Owen (James Norton) and returned to England engaged. In the flashbacks, Joseph is a kind and affectionate adventurer—the ardent romantic that Dolly’s sister, Kitty (Ellie Kendrick), complains she’ll never meet in England. Owen, meanwhile, comes off as a boring naïf, walking in on his new wife’s intimate conversation with a man who supposedly loves her and responding only with a simple, “Sorry.” That said, the cards are stacked heavily against the poor guy. While we watch full scenes of Joseph wooing and seducing Dolly over the summer, Owen’s limited screen time peaks with some timid fretting about the missing wedding ring. Not particularly conducive to displaying a man’s best features.
Fortunately for the groom, Joseph’s charm disappears by the wedding day and gets replaced by a troubled face and quick temper. In fact, halfway through Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, it becomes clear that the film is neither a story of two men battling for a woman’s love nor of just one man on a mission to win back the bride; it’s just about Joseph moping indecisively. A shame, because the film begins in Oscar Wilde territory, where laser-quick wit and biting sarcasm prevails. One wishes that director and co-writer Donald Rice had stuck with this half-successful but entertaining Wildian tone, rather than increasingly showing Joseph staring vacantly into space and postponing his confrontation with Dolly like a lovelorn Hamlet.
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding suffers most, though, from an excessively blunt approach. The flashbacks to summer love are filmed in warm light, the wedding day in drab, gray tones. The climax comes, quite literally, with a bang, and on the way toward this finale, we wait to see if happiness will be sacrificed for family and social obligations, and meanwhile watch the film sadly leave too much lightheartedness behind, and with it most of its charm.