Restoration

Year: 1995
David's Character: John Pearce
Director(s): Michael Hoffman
Other Stars: Robert Downey, Jr., Sam Neill & Meg Ryan
Pictures: Click here
Screen time: 40 minutes

Restoration is a 1995 film which tells the story of a young doctor, Robert Merivel, who finds himself in the service of King Charles II of England after having saved the King's favorite spaniel. Merivel finds himself enjoying a life of pleasure and popularity at court, until the King informs him that he has arranged for Merivel to wed Celia, the King's favorite mistress. The purpose of the arranged marriage is to fool another of the King's mistresses, Barbara Castlemaine. Merivel is given an estate named Bidnold in Suffolk, and Celia is installed in a house in Kew where the king can visit her secretly. Merivel lives a life of debauchery there, but also finds pleasure in restoring the house to its former beauty. But things become complicated when Merivel breaks the King's cardinal rule by falling in love with Celia, who does not return Merivel's affections.

Finding out about Merivel's romantic feelings toward Celia, the King banishes him from court back to his life as a physician. Merivel rejoins his old friend, John Pearce, who has opened a Quaker sanitarium. There, Merivel meets Katherine, a troubled young woman whose husband walked out on her after their daughter drowned in the river. Merivel and Katherine become lovers. John Pearce falls fatally ill with consumption, and while Merivel is tending to his dying friend, Katherine makes a scene declaring to all who live and work at the facility that Merivel is her lover. They then discover that Katherine is pregnant with Merivel's child, and after the death of John Pearce, Merivel and Katherine are both asked to leave.

The pair return to London just as the plague has hit. Katherine gives birth to a daughter, Margaret, via cesarean, but Katherine dies in the process as there is no way to ward off infection once the body has been cut open. In her dying moments, Merivel promises Katherine that he will care for Margaret, and that he loves Katherine.

As the plague continues to slaughter the people of London, Merivel feels compelled to do what he can as a physician. He goes out into the city, separating the sick from the well, who have all been quarantined together, and does what he can to ease the suffering of the dying. When someone asks for Merivel's name, he says he is John Pearce as a tribute to his friend. Under this misnomer and in disguise, Merivel is once again summoned to the palace. The King fears that Celia has contracted the plague, but Merivel soon assures him that she does not have the plague, but rather has a regular treatable illness. With this, Merivel realizes the life he has now is more rewarding and fulfilling than the life and loves at the court he left behind.

Suddenly, the court is notified that the city is ablaze, and Merivel races back to the city to retrieve his infant daughter from the flames. He is unable to find her, and falling through burning wood, Merivel lands in a small row-boat, unconscious, and is floated by the river current away from the city. When he awakens, he is back at Bidnold, the estate the King had given to him at his marriage of Celia, then taken away. As Merivel recovers from his fall, he cannot recover from his failure to protect his young daughter from harm, when suddenly the King arrives at the house with his entourage. He informs Merivel that he has discovered the doctor's true identity, and that he was impressed with the man Merivel had become. With that, the King steps aside to reveal the midwife holding Margaret, Merivel's daughter, safely in her arms. For his courage and good work done in treating the victims of the plague, the King once again gives Merivel Bidnold, stating that this time it will never be taken away. The movie ends with Merivel returning to London, to set up a new hospital with help from the King.

The movie was adapted by Rupert Walters from the novel by Rose Tremain.

Sources: