Feast of July

Feast of July is a 1995 United Kingdom film directed by Christopher Menaul and produced by Merchant Ivory Productions, based on the 1954 novel by H. E. Bates, starring Embeth Davidtz and Ben Chaplin.

Feast of July
Promotional movie poster
Directed byChristopher Menaul
Produced byHenry Herbert
Christopher Neame
Ismail Merchant (executive)
Paul Bradley (executive)
Written byChristopher Neame (from the novel by H. E. Bates)
Music byZbigniew Preisner
CinematographyPeter Sova
Edited byChris Wimble
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • October 13, 1995 (1995-10-13)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$293,274


The movie opens with Isabella Ford (Embeth Davidtz) in a pathetic state, traveling alone from Selmouth to Addisford on foot although she will be having a baby in a short while. In a deserted cabin on the way, she gives birth to a stillborn baby. She buries it and continues her journey to Addisford. She arrives there late in the evening and meets Ben Wainwright (Tom Bell), the lamplighter at Addisford. He asks her about herself and if she has any relatives in Addisford. Bella replies that she does not have any and she came looking for a man by the name of Arch Wilson (Greg Wise). Ben does not know him and seeing her plight, takes her to his house. He tells his wife (Gemma Jones) to get Bella washed up. Bella, now clean and dry, sits at the dinner table while Ben introduces his family. Ben has three children. Matty (Kenneth Anderson), Con (Ben Chaplin) and Jedd (James Purefoy). Matty, the youngest, is a shoemaker, Jedd is a soldier, and Con does not have a specific profession. He does the household chores and helps his parents around. Bella is unable to eat anything during the dinner, starts crying, and faints when she stands up to go to bed.

Mrs. Wainwright puts Bella to bed and feeds her some soup after a while. Bella refuses to have more and falls asleep. She wakes up in the midnight and remembers the intimate moments with her lover, Arch. She falls asleep again and wakes up in the morning. From the window, she sees Mr and Mrs. Wainwright seeing off Jedd, who is going back to the army. After Jedd is gone, Bella prepares to leave. Mrs. Wainwright gives Bella her daughter's coat and tells her that she died of rheumatic fever. She asks about Bella's family and learns that she has nowhere to go. She tells her that she can stay and she will have to do her share of household work, if she chooses to stay. She also suggests she fetch leather from the factory for the shoes. Bella agrees to stay.

That evening, Bella takes a pair of shoes that she received as a present from Arch to Matty in order to have a sock put in them since they are large for her feet. Matty tells her that it can't be done as the shoes are "cheap Yankee ones" and machine made. Bella is slightly surprised on hearing that the shoes are cheap. Matty tells her that he will make her a new pair. The next day, Bella leaves for Aylesburgh to fetch leather. Con secretly follows Bella and when confronted by her, asks her if she would like to come out with him sometimes. Bella tells him that she has no mind to go out with anyone. Con asks her to forget that he asked her out and leaves.

One day, after Jedd arrives, he and Bella go for a walk into the woods where Jedd flirts with her. That evening, Jedd and Ben go to the pub, where Jedd plays pool against Arch, who is a rent collector. Late in the evening, Arch drops off a drunken Jedd and Ben at their house and drives away just before Bella could see him. Jedd continues to flirt will Bella even at the house and Con does not like it. The next day, crop harvest begins and the entire family goes to work in the fields. During the break from work in the afternoon, Jedd insists that Bella is not comfortable and takes her to a more shady spot by carrying her in his hands in spite of Bella's polite protests. Jedd also forcefully offers her water and Con, who can't take it anymore, attacks Jedd with a scythe. Jedd retaliates with a rake. Mrs. Wainwright intervenes and disperses them. That night, the squire arranges a dinner party for all the villagers and Bella dances with each of the brothers in turn. When dancing with Con, he steps on her foot as he is not a good dancer. They get away from the crowd and Bella asks him why he fought Jedd. He explains that it was because Jedd did not listen to her and continued to offer her water. She requests Con to watch his temper as she does not want any troubles in the family which took her in.

The next day, Bella sees Jedd off at the station and also finds Arch there. She follows him to his house and so learns that he is married and has a child. She decides to leave Addisford, while Mrs. Wainwright agrees since she set her sons one against the other. When Con arrives home, his mother tells him that Bella is gone. He runs to the station and tries to convince Bella to stay. Bella tells him that she had been with another man and tells about the baby. Con replies that she did nothing wrong, that he loves her and that her past does not matter. Bella returns home and Mrs. Wainwright receives her coldly. The next day, as they are sitting for breakfast, Mrs. Wainwright announces that Matty had left for London.

Con and Bella attend a party where she runs into Arch, and blames him for lying to her. During breakfast the next day, Con suddenly proposes to Bella before his parents, and Bella accepts the proposal. Con takes Bella for boating in the river and there they meet Arch again. Arch makes fun of them and when the bullying gets worse, Con, in a fit of rage, kills Arch with a stone, in spite of Bella's attempts to stop him.

Con and Bella decide to flee Addisfordh. During the night they take refuge in a deserted house far from Addisford. Con is disgusted with himself and scared. Bella comforts him and professes her love for him, and they make love. The next day, they continue to Selmouth where they will be taking a boat to leave for Dublin. In Selmouth, Con notices that Bella is acquainted with a lot of the men in town and he becomes suspicious of her. At one point, when he sees Bella talking to the captain of the boat, he has a vision of the captain and Bella kissing, laughing at him and he slapping Bella hard on the face. He realizes that he can't live with Bella due to his critical mentality. He tells her that he doesn't trust himself with her, and is going to turn himself in as he can't live with the guilt. He asks her to say goodbye. Bella protests violently, but he leaves and turns himself in.

On the day of Con's execution, when Bella comes to visit him, she runs into his family. Mrs. Wainwright tries to attack her, yelling "Damn you! Damn you!!". At the end of the visit they are overcome with emotion and hug each other. Con is hanged as Bella is on the train to from Addisford to Selmouth. In the closing scene, Bella is shown standing on the boat deck, on her way to Dublin. She touches her stomach and smiles slightly to herself, which suggests that she is pregnant with Con's child.


Blists Hill Victorian Town was used as a filming location.[1]



  1. "Filmed in Shropshire". Shropshire Tourism. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
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