Consenting Adults

Consenting Adults


Reviewed by: Susanna Krawczyk

This is the story of John Wolfenden (Charles Dance), the man in charge of reviewing the laws regarding homosexuality and prostitution in the Fifties. The movie focuses on the decision he must make as to whether homosexual acts in private between men should remain illegal. Sean Biggerstaff plays his son Jeremy, a young man who complicates the issue greatly for John, being openly gay.

The cast is filled out by a few bit players: the committee working with John to come to a conclusion, composed of liberals, the religious and some hard-core right-wingers; a working-class family man who is unable to reconcile his feelings for men with his settled family life; and his lover, a confused young man who ends up on the wrong end of the law when the affair turns sour.

Copy picture

It’s clear that the conflicted couple are there to provide tangible evidence of the harm that the law against homosexual acts caused, and it would have worked better had it not been quite so ham-fistedly obvious, or indeed if the characters had had more of a connection to the main action. Perhaps, even, if more time had been spent on them, maybe at the expense of Jeremy’s bland muddling-around with the military that never really goes anywhere. The film suffers pretty badly from this – a complete lack of any reason to care about the characters, beyond the political injustices being perpetrated upon them.

Some of the blatant homophobia displayed here - accurately reflecting the institutionalised attitudes of the time – is pretty shocking, and I suppose the film could be valuable purely as a reminder of this, if a fairly mediocre one. I got the feeling that the film wasn’t really telling me anything interesting about the events it was portraying. It looks like a TV movie, and not one you’d stay on if you were flicking channels at 2am.

Often a movie like this can be rescued by its lead actors, but not in this case. Charles Dance – usually a charismatic actor – is unusually flat in the role. In fact none of the performances are exactly memorable. The whole movie has a slightly flat “filler episode of a BBC political drama” feel to it. This is somewhat understandable, given that the real-life events were almost certainly as dry, drawn-out and dull as they appear, but in the end it makes for a pretty unengaging movie.

Reviewed on: 02 Mar 2008
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The story of John Wolfenden and the legalisation of homosexuality in England.

Director: Richard Curson Smith

Writer: Julian Mitchell

Starring: Charles Dance, Sean Biggerstaff, Paul Kendrick, Samantha Bond, David Bamber, Haydn Gwynne

Year: 2007

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: UK


Glasgow 2008

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