Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
BRIDESHEAD REVISITED MOVIE REVIEW
Directed by: Julian Jarrold
Running time: 120 minutes
Release date: July 25, 2008 (NY) & August 1, 2008 (Wide)
Genre: Drama and Romance
Distributor: Miramax Films & BBC Films
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Based on Evelyn Wood's 1945 novel by the same title, the period piece Brideshead Revisited is a World War II epic story. The film is an evocative and poignant look at a young middle class man, Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode), and his involvement with the aristocratic Marchmain family over a 20 year time period.
In this film, Charles meets a flamboyant Sebastian Marchmain (Ben Whisaw) at Oxford where he (Charles) is studying art painting. He is taken by the exciting lifestyle of Sebastian and his homosexual friends who live on campus. Charles is invited to Sebastian's affluent estate of Brideshead. This new wealthy and very strictly Catholic manner of living is unlike his middle-class life to which he is accustomed. Charles meets Sebastian's beautiful and mysterious sister Julia (Hayley Atwell) and his dominant mother Lady Marchmain (played by Academy Award winner Emma Thompson) who is a staunch Catholic.
Meanwhile, Sebastian falls in love with Charles and decides he will not share his fondness of him with anyone. Sebastian's has an estranged relationship with his mother due to his sexual preference and his excessive drinking. During the course of a fun loving summer, Charles, Sebastian and Julia take a vacation in Venice and visit Lord Marchmain (Michael Gambon) who is separated from his immediate family and living with his mistress Cara (Greta Scacchi). During the excitement of Carnival, Charles and Julia share a kiss and the love sparks fly. Sebastian, however, is present to see this. When they return to England, the love entanglement becomes an increasing problem. These issues culminate into a long lasting state of confusion and adultery, and a war of Charles' atheism versus the Catholic order of controlling Lady Marchmain.
The film's characters beautifully portray a thematic web of faith, sex, guilt and ambition. Sebastian is consumed by guilt over his homosexuality, and Julia is consumed by guilt over her infidelity. Meanwhile, Charles hungers for the glamour of their world that he will never fit into.
The scenes of these young adults are in a flashbacks from Charles' thoughts, as he wanders through the empty home he once knew. The British Army's takeover of the abandoned Brideshead estate (as a military depot) during World War II gives the viewer a fascinating look at an era in English culture lost. Matthew Goode, in the lead role of Charles Ryder, gives a passionate, playful and mysterious performance. Ben Whishaw's prior work in the film Perfume was brilliant. Casting this actor as Sebastian, brought to the role a beguiling quality. Hayley Atwell's character Julia, had to be played with beauty and a mystique of sexuality. She plays both ends of the scale to perfection.
If you enjoy good drama and magnificent cinematography, you can't go wrong with this movie.
FILM RATING (B+)