Director: Julian Jarrold
Cast: Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw, Hayley Atwell,
Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon
RunTime: 2 hrs 15 mins
Released By: Festive Films
Rating: M18 (Some Mature Content)
Official Website: http://bridesheadrevisited-themovie.com/
Opening Day: 30 October 2008
Adapted from one of the truly great works of fiction of the
20th century, Brideshead Revisited is a gorgeously romantic
epic portraying a story of forbidden love and the loss of
in a golden age just before the Second World War when privileged
aristocracy was falling into decline, this is the story of
Charles Ryder’s infatuation with Julia Flyte, daughter
of a aristocratic family.
his world changes Charles will be made to save his best friend
from self-destruction and fight the expectations of social
and religious demands so he can conquer his true love.
Oh how alluring, how tempting the ways of the high life, one
taste all it takes to make one yearn for more.
ask Charles Ryder, the son of a middle-class family who experiences
its lure when he enters Oxford University and meets Sebastian
Flyte, the younger son of an aristocratic family who owns
the sprawling Brideshead estate.
in the 1930s, Brideshead Revisited is the story of Charles’
subsequent entanglements with the Flyte family, led by the
family matriarch Lady Marchmain. Charles and the ostensibly
gay Sebastian share a passionate relationship, but upon visiting
the magnificent and awe-inspiring Brideshead, Charles falls
for Sebastian’s sister Lady Julia.
literary classic by Evelyn Waugh on which this movie is based
was hailed by Time Magazine as one of the all-time top 100
novels. Its first translation to screen was in the 1981 television
miniseries which also won many accolades, most notable for
Jeremy Irons’ nuanced portrayal of Charles Ryder.
what the TV series accomplished over 11 episodes, this latest
adaptation by Jeremy Brock and Andrew Davies tries to achieve
within 2 hours. It is no easy feat, considering the many complex
themes within the book. Sadly, this revisit is better off
being respected for its ambition than for its merits.
of this has to do with the way that the screenwriting duo
has chosen to condense the more difficult issues within the
book. Perhaps as a nod to contemporary times, director Julian
Jarrold’s adaptation spends considerable time developing
Charles and Sebastian’s relationship, playing up its
movie succeeds best at developing the passion between Charles
and Sebastian and later on, Charles and Julia. And in this
aspect, it is aided immeasurably by the compelling performances
of Ben Whishaw and Hayley Atwell as Sebastian and Julia respectively.
Their sibling characters steal almost every scene that they
Brideshead Revisited is as much about their passion as it
is about the contrast between the different classes in society.
It is when the story begins to explore the motivations of
Charles, the middle-class youth tempted by the luxuries of
nobility that the movie begins to flounder. Did Charles actually
fall in love with Sebastian? Is Charles’ desire to be
with Lady Julia because of his love for her, or is he just
after her wealth?
answers to these questions of Charles’ identity in the
book are juxtaposed with the conflict of religious beliefs
between the Brideshead family and Charles. Indeed, one of
its central motifs of the book is the Catholic faith, quite
apt since the author was a convert to the faith. In Waugh’s
tale, Ryder is an agnostic, a non-believer who sees the faith
as a means by which Lady Marchmain oppresses her children
as well as her now-estranged husband.
Waugh’s intention was in no way to denounce the faith.
Instead, he wanted to scrutinize the secularism of Ryder,
and contrast his consequent lack of belonging to that of the
family’s eventual discovery of the importance of religiosity.
Unfortunately, the movie spends too much time setting up the
harshness of Lady Marchmain’s strict Catholic upbringing
towards her children that the enlightenment at the end feels
forced and tacked on.
this is the movie’s most fundamental flaw- that while
being faithful to the book’s ending; it is nevertheless
a pale shadow of the commentary that the book so eloquently
makes. Matthew Goode is also no Jeremy Irons, his portrayal
of the emotionally and spiritually confused Charles Ryder
more bland than nuanced, more insipid than compelling.
no means however, is Brideshead Revisited a bad film. Certainly,
its production design is impeccable and its cast of young
and veteran actors, especially Michael Gambon and Emma Thompson,
a joy to watch. But its decision to take a literal reading
of the text- by focusing on the love triangle between its
characters- is definitely a disappointment given its sumptuous
Brideshead is still worth a visit if you’re not acquainted
with it, but if you are, it’s certainly not worth a
(Best visited as an introduction to its far superior
source material; but definitely unworthy as a revisit)
Review by Gabriel Chong