Ted Wallace (Roger Allam, The Queen, V for Vendetta, The Lady in the Van) is a poet that became fairly famous a few decades back, but in the years since his last published poem, he has become a theater critic, a job he obviously loathes, but tolerates enough for the paycheck. Well, until he crosses one line too many and gets fired.
He soon runs into Jane (Emily Berrington, Humans), his goddaughter, whom he hasn't seen since she was a young girl thanks to a falling out between Ted and the rest of Jane's family due to a rather public humiliation suffered by Jane's mother. She tells him that she has leukemia and while her doctors say she has only a few weeks left to live, she believes she experienced a miracle at her family's manor. She hires Ted to go to the Norfolk country house and investigate what is going on. If it truly is a miracle, then she is healed. If not, well, she seems to be at peace with her situation.
Jane doesn't give Ted much to go on, even the fact that he is investigating a healing miracle isn't all that clear, but before he can really start digging into the happenings of the household, he must reunite with his old friends. First, there is Ted's school and army mate, Lord Michael Logan (Matthew Modine, Full Metal Jacket, Stranger Things, The Dark Knight Rises) and Michael's wife, Anne (Fiona Shaw, The Harry Potter films). Anne is quick to embrace the long-estranged friend, while Michael views the poet's return with skepticism. Ted's excuse for appearing at the manor is to get to know his godson, David (Tommy Knight), the youngest Logan son, since David fancies himself a fledgling poet and the two have corresponded many times over the years. The Logans' other son, Simon (Dean Ridge) is a bit more grounded than David and seems to be preparing to someday take over the Logan family holdings.
Corresponding with Ted's visit are a few other guests, one of which is Oliver Mills (Tim McInnerny, Notting Hill, MI-5), a stage director Ted knows from his time as a critic that is supposedly trying to get funding for a new project, while the others are a French woman, Valerie (Lyne Renee), and her very plain-looking daughter, Clara (Emma Curtis), who are ostensibly there to purchase a horse from the Logans. Ted quickly realizes that the reason for their time at the manor house might not be as clear as they claim.
What follows is a weekend of unusual detective work, unexpected revelations about the Logan family, and more than a few cases of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. To make matters worse for Ted, Jane's mother and Michael's sister, Rebecca (Geraldine Somerville, also from The Harry Potter films), arrives at the house and the events that caused Ted to be shunned by the Logans become all too apparent to both the viewers and the younger Logan generation.
The Hippopotamus comes with a lengthy set of special features. Outside of individual interviews with Allam, Shaw and Modine, each lasting about 5 minutes, there are featurettes about what it took to translate Fry's novel into a movie, about the British Comedy genre in general, and one where various cast members are asked about different aspects of the film. While all of these were enjoyable, I felt like the extra that packed the most punch was a Q&A session from 2017's Hay Festival featuring Fry, Allam, Jencks and screenwriter Blanche McIntyre. Each member of the panel gave some interesting perspectives on the characters and how both the book and the film turned out.
The Hippopotamus is not for everyone. Not only does the dry British humor already limit the audience to those who know what they are getting into, but there are definitely subjects covered in this movie that many would find offensive and shocking. Personally, I enjoyed the film, but those of a more conservative mindset would find more than one objectionable scene before the film is over.