Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead Revisited


Reviewed by: Darren Amner

Based on Evelyn Waugh's 1945 classic British novel which was also adapted into a much-beloved 80s TV series Brideshead Revisited is clearly popular source material. So when the decision was made to turn the story into a feature film anticipation was rife.

Set pre-Second War, Brideshead Revisited is the story of forbidden love and the loss of innocence. We follow Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) as he goes to study history at Oxford, despite his first love being art, where he has a chance encounter with Sebastian Flyte (Ben Wishaw), a sophisticated wealthy charmer with a love for debauchery.

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Sebastian and Charles bond over their mutual love of wine, art and share the same amount of youthful exuberance for life. Fascinated by Sebastian and his lifestyle Ryder is invited to visit his home, Brideshead - an experience he will never forget.

Brideshead is an incredible sight to behold, set in lush scenery, with its wonderful paintings, and is an incredible draw for Ryder each time he visits. Ryder is introduced during an early stay to Sebastian's mother Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson) and sister Julia (Hayley Atwell), who immediately catches his eye, the only problem is the more time Sebastian spends with Ryder the more, too, he is drawn to him resulting in a love triangle of sorts, where passion and jealously are combined in equal measure.

The script spans several years, and we see all the principal characters evolve, visiting many locations such as Oxford, Venice and even Morocco, where Ryder goes to try to find Sebastian and bring him back after his alcoholism gets the best of him.

The production values are excellent and make use of some magnificent locations, which are shot in a luminous way by cinematographer Jess Hall. The period is recreated splendidly and no doubt will receive a few nods come awards season.

As for the cast, Goode is an accomplished lead as Ryder especially during the scenes where he needs to decide what is more important to him, his infatuation with Brideshead or Julia.

Whishaw's Sebastian is charismatic, camp and heartbreaking to watch especially during key moments when he learns of Charles and Julia's kiss as well as, of course, during his constant battles with his overbearing mother. Thompson is almost unrecognisable as Lady Marchmain and she is terrific in her pivotal role as the mother who only really wants the best for her children.

Atwell as Julia is incredibly beautiful and it's not hard to see why Ryder is drawn to her in the first place - she would catch the eye of anybody across a crowded room. Although her performance is not particularly memorable, her beauty is striking.

Director Julian Jarrold has done very well in putting together a two-hour coherent story given the sheer scope the novel and it will the contemporary audience will be drawn to its mournful melodrama. However, I found the story a little soap opera-ish. Ryder and Julia's passionate love for each other could have been a little more convincing and the drama was occasionally be heightened for drama's sake.

A pleasant way of spending a couple of hours but by no means the masterpiece the filmmakers and fans hoped it would be. Its adequate but for a source that carries around much high-acclaim it's just not good enough. A slight disappointment, by no means a poor film but after leaving the cinema you can't help but feel “out of sight out of mind” which is a shame.

Reviewed on: 01 Oct 2008
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Brideshead Revisited packshot
A man reflects on his conflicting passions for a brother and sister whose lives were dominated by Catholic guilt.
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Jennie Kermode ***

Director: Julian Jarrold

Writer: Andrew Davies, Jeremy Brock, based on the novel by Evelyn Waugh

Starring: Matthew Goode, Hayley Atwell, Ben Whishaw, Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon, Greta Scacchi, Jonathan Cake, Ed Stoppard

Year: 2008

Runtime: 133 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK


CFF 2008

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Brideshead Revisited