Details: (PG), 135 mins, United Kingdom, English
Synopsis: In 1925 at Oxford University, Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) is befriended by the flamboyant Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw), son of Lord and Lady Marchmain (Michael Gambon and Emma Thompson). Sebastian takes Charles under his wing and when he\'s invited to Brideshead, the Flyte family\'s magnificent ancestral home, Charles becomes infatuated with Julia, Sebastian\'s beautiful sister Julia (Hayley Atwell) as well as everything the family represents. But he is not aware of the negative impact religion plays on their lives.
An overlooked masterpiece.
When Julian Jarrold’s Brideshead Revisited launched in the UK, audiences stayed away. That was a bad omen for the film’s prospects in the rest of the world, for if the Brits weren’t motivated to see this adaptation of Evelyn Waugh\'s beloved 1945 novel, why would the rest of the world?
So it proved when the movie opened in Australia and grossed less than $1.5 million. I suspect many Poms doubted it would live up to the 1981 Granada TV miniseries without even bothering to check out the film.
That’s not fair to the filmmakers and the cast, for this is a moving, impeccably acted and beautifully photographed cinematic tour de force. In my view it doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve seen the TV version: this film stands alone as a very fine piece of English costume drama.
The screenplay by Andrew Davies and Jeremy Brock, both specialists in adapting literary tales, follows Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode in the role made famous by Jeremy Irons) as he commences studies at Oxford in the 1920s, and falls into the company of fellow student Lord Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw, taking over from Anthony Andrews).
Charles is soon seduced, physically and metaphorically, by Sebastian’s opulent world centred on the family’s country mansion, Brideshead. Initially he’s accepted by the matriach Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson), a devout Catholic, although he’s an atheist. Lady Marchmain, who disapproves of Sebastian’s flamboyant homosexuality and growing alcoholism, suffocates her children with her blind faith and misguided values. She has a difficult relationship with her high-spirited daughter Julia Flyte (Hayley Attwell)
Hoping that Charles’ “reliability” will steady her wayward son, she encourages him to accompany the siblings on a trip to Venice to visit their father, Lord Marchmain (Michael Gambon), and his mistress Cara (Greta Scacchi). There, romance unexpectedly develops between Charles and Julia, sewing the seeds that will destroy all three lives. The disintegration of Sebastian, Lady Marchmain’s pain, and the thwarted love between Charles and Julia are achingly sad.
Goode and Whishaw are terrific in their depiction of a doomed “romantic friendship,” as Carla calls it, as is Hayley Atwell as she conveys Julia’s inner conflict. And Thompson is at her imperious best, turning Lady Marchmain into a truly tragic figure of religious fanaticism and rigid piety. Full kudos to Jarrold, who showed his flair for historical drama with Becoming Jane.
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