This film was truly a labour of love for the director Rupert Everett, who also wrote the screenplay and plays Oscar Wilde. Some of you may have seen the Imagine earlier this year, which followed Everett over a period of five years, trying to raise the money to make the film and then, finally, making it. Imagine joined Everett halfway through his epic journey to make it. The programme followed Everett from his onstage triumph playing Oscar in The Judas Kiss in the West End in 2012, through numerous false starts and setbacks. Now that it has finally be released it has the seal of approval from Merlin Holland, Wilde’s only grandchild and an expert on the writer, who told the Guardian: ‘I found myself terribly moved by the film’.
The last days of Oscar Wilde, and the ghosts that haunted them, are vividly evoked. Everett gives a career defining performance as Wilde, physically and emotionally embodying the literary genius as he lives out his last days in exile in Europe. His body ailing and heavy, his mind spinning, he survives by falling back on the flamboyant irony and brilliant wit that defined him. As the film travels through Wilde’s final act and journeys through England, France and Italy, desire and loyalty face off, the transience of lust is laid bare, and the true riches of love are revealed.
It’s a melancholy film, punctuated with flashes of that famous wit and the heartbreak of the fairy tale from which it takes its name. Colin Morgan’s Bosie, the gorgeous, callous aristocrat who led to Wilde’s downfall, provides a welcome shot of venom when he returns to his side. Using vignettes and flashback, we learn about his few loyal friends, his relationship with his wife and sons, which was devoted if impossible, and how he allowed Bosie to continue to destroy him. This occasionally slips into sentiment, but there are some stand-out scenes — Wilde singing The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery, for instance — and, of course, there are some terrific lines. ‘I am dying beyond my means,’ he will complain on his deathbed. As for Everett, he is terrific. His Wilde is not hagiographic; his Wilde is brilliant but also foolhardy, exploited but also wilfully self-destructive, funny but also pathetic. A sad film, but ravishingly so.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall