This 1999 British film pits idealistic overseers of a London photography collection against a pragmatic American entrepreneur exercising his right to evict them from a mansion he has purchased. The photo collection is one of the world's largest, containing ten million pictures which the staff files, maintains, and rents to various media. From an aesthetic standpoint, the collection -- dating all the way back to the beginning of photography in the 19th century -- is priceless. The key question is what will happen to it, for wealthy American businessman Christopher Anderson (Liam Cunningham) owns not only the building, but also the collection itself. After announcing plans to remodel the mansion into a state-of-the-art business school, he threatens to destroy all but the most valuable photographs because there's no time, according to his rat-race schedule, to find a new repository for them. Feisty curator Marilyn Truman (Lindsay Duncan) and her eccentric assistant, Oswald Bates (Timothy Spall), then hatch plots to thwart his plans. First, they "mislay" a selection of highly valuable photographs. When that stratagem doesn't work, Truman persuades Anderson to look at several stacks of the ordinary, less valuable photographs. These photographs turn out to be extraordinary. One set tells the poignant story of a Jewish family victimized by the holocaust. The images impress Anderson, but he refuses to alter his plans. Then Bates launches an ingenious scheme. Using his incredible "photographic" memory, he selects a few startling photos from among the millions -- photos that have a connection to Anderson's past. These photographs, and the secrets they hold, stun Anderson while demonstrating the variety and vastness of the collection. Will he alter his plans to save the collection? Meanwhile, Bates, believing his scheme has failed, attempts suicide, and the final moments of the film reveal whether Bates and the photos will survive.
by Mike Cummings synopsis