It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"The Browning Version" is based on Terence Rattigan's 1948 play about an English schoolmaster who is forced into retirement by a bad heart, a faithless wife, and his own mounting despair. But the heart seems capable, at least for the time being, and the wife has real affection for him, deep down, and by the end of the film even despair has been held at bay by a spirited blast of rhetoric.
The film stars Albert Finney as the morose Andrew Crocker-Harris, who teaches Greek and Latin at an old and beautiful English public school. The language department is being reorganized to place more emphasis on modern languages. A new man named Tom Gilbert (Julian Sands) is being brought in to replace the old master. And as Crocker-Harris leaves his school, he will leave his wife, too; Laura (Greta Scacchi) has been having an affair with Frank (Matthew Modine), a young chemistry teacher from America.
It is the end of term. Parents will be present for the graduation ceremony, at which Crocker-Harris will be suitably honored.
Another teacher is also leaving - a popular young P.E. instructor who plans to become a professional cricket player. Dr. Frobisher (Michael Gambon), the head of the school, wants Crocker-Harris to speak his farewell first, to avoid anticlimax, but the old man insists on going second, as is his right. And his curtain speech brings together all of the threads of the story.