“It’s not hard to see why films such as The King’s Speech, The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love play so well in Peoria. They work as pure escapism, presenting American audiences with a world that seems at once reassuringly familiar (people speak English) and excitingly different (they like drinking tea and hate talking about their feelings). For two hours, they allow us to forget the messy anxieties of the present and wallow in an idealized, romantic past.

“The silver screen Britain is a courteous, orderly place. Women wear dresses. There is no crime. Everybody is white. The political and social conflicts that marked Britain’s history — the strikes and demonstrations, the suffragettes and socialists — are entirely absent. It’s like Tolkien’s Shire, only with worse weather and stodgier food.

“The Britain of Colin Firth and Helen Mirren is the Britain of the imagination, a world of half-timbered cottages and country pubs, draughty palaces and foggy skies: an exact opposite, in other words, of modern-day America.” — Dominic Sandbrook, a proper Englishman, in yesterday’s N.Y. Daily News.