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Brideshead Revisited

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars
Superficially, at least, it’s hard to fault this risky adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel for its fidelity to the book. Director Julian Jarrold and writers including Andrew Davies (scribe of most things gay, period and literary), keep intact much of Waugh’s dialogue and most of the story: impressionable Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode, channelling Jeremy Irons in the 1981 TV series) meets eccentric aristocrat Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw, more vulnerable than Anthony Andrews) at Oxford and is intrigued by him and his family – sister Julia (Hayley Atwell), mother Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson) and father Lord Marchmain (Michael Gambon) – and their curious relationships to God and each other.

If anything, though, it’s too faithful: there’s a sense that the filmmakers are too fearful of taking flight to offer anything more than a polished but plodding impression of Waugh’s words with all the right sets and costumes but none of the yearning, emotional power of his literary portrait of a man –  and a society – on the cusp of change. Its additions feel token (a peck on the lips between Charles and Sebastian) or cynical (an interest from the first scene in Charles and Julia’s later love affair) while its main omission – a sense of Charles as the tortured, misty-eyed narrator – is almost fatal. The Oxford scenes threaten to drown the peculiar intimacy of Sebastian and Charles’s nascent friendship in a tourist’s tour of the city. Kiss or no kiss, there’s no sense of attraction between the two, and the film is more comfortable with Charles’s liaison with Julia. Performances are good – Thompson and Gambon impress – but the insipid music is dreadful.
Written by Dave Calhoun

Release Details

  • Rated:12A
  • Release date:Friday 3 October 2008
  • Duration:133 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Julian Jarrold
  • Screenwriter:Jeremy Brock, Andrew Davies
  • Cast:
    • Matthew Goode
    • Hayley Atwell
    • Ben Whishaw
    • Emma Thompson
    • Michael Gambon
    • Greta Scacchi
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