Newell's follow-up to Four Weddings and a Funeral offers many subtle if somewhat sombre pleasures. Charles Wood's adaptation of Beryl Bainbridge's novel about backstage theatrical life in postwar Liverpool evokes the period's dusty oppressiveness and moral hypocrisies. Cates gives a luminous performance as the starstruck trainee stagehand Stella; and Grant is cast effectively against type as Meredith Potter, the company's cruel, manipulative director who vies for Stella's innocent soul with Rickman's suave, haunted leading man PL O'Hara. When O'Hara is called back to reprise his acclaimed Captain Hook, a complex web of past and present entanglements begins to unravel. Newell's handling of the exterior scenes has a slightly cursory air, but his sharp dramatic focus draws the best from an exceptional ensemble cast. With its flawed characters and disturbingly dark centre, this fragile gem of a movie sparkles with intelligence and glows with feeling.