›› Maurice ‹‹

a film by Merchant Ivory Productions.

1987 | 140 mins | UK.

an exquisite adaptation of the classic E.M. Forster love story.

Dave says:

Cue the life and times of Maurice Hall (James Wilby); a young man as much in love with the edification of Cambridge life, as he is attracted to fellow undergraduate Clive Durham (Hugh Grant). Yet he's also a man forced to quit the university he respects so much, when a requisite apology was not forthcoming. Moving to the city, Maurice soon lands a well-paid job, only to face the harsh reality of unrequited love from a man intent on cementing his social reputation, family inheritance and political office through the institution of marriage.

Ill at ease with his homosexuality and having already rejected the 'temptation from the devil' counselling of the family doctor, Maurice comes to seek the help of a hypnotist in order to exorcise the gay spirit that lies within, only for a stay on the Durhams' estate to bring him in contact with under gamekeeper Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves) in the most physical way possible. Faced with a stark choice between social conformity or a love that is not only illegal, but divided by class, Maurice must decide his future before the man he loves takes a one-way ticket to Argentina, as the sound of the drums of World War I become increasingly louder.

Largely written between 1913 and 1914 but not published until 1971, a year after his death, this work of homosexual acceptance ranks as a classic E.M. Forster love story, with its screen adaptation by Kit Hesketh-Harvey as exquisite, as the whole production is indicative of the first class storytelling that the man himself would have been immensely proud of. Yet whilst the cast includes a series of laudable performances from the likes of Simon Callow, Denholm Elliott, Patrick Godfrey, Ben Kingsley, Judy Parfitt and Billie Whitelaw, the story at heart revolves around three players and here Hugh Grant is perfectly cast as the upright English gentleman of the piece who ultimately rejects Maurice and all things gay, for the sake of social advancement. As expected, James Wilby is outstanding in the role of a man struggling with the emotions of his heart, only for Rupert Graves as Scudder to give him a run for his money, splendid as he is in his portrayal of the 'bit of rough' who Maurice would eventually fall for.

That Forster left the ending deliberately open, having later discarded an epilogue that saw a dramatic meeting between Maurice and his sister Kitty take place at a time when Maurice and Alec had become woodcutters, underlines the romanticism that Forster gave this, his most personal work. Only given the class-conscious society of the day, let alone the impending war, the optimistic conclusion on offer here is, like many a work of fiction, a historical improbability.

Then again, this is to period drama what Beautiful Thing is to modern cinema; namely escapism in the final reel. And there's nothing wrong with that, given the result is a beautifully told love story, aided by the fine photography of Pierre Lhomme, a lush score from Richard Robbins, together with James Ivory's ever superlative direction.

Interestingly and in spite of its considerable running time, the film itself was somewhat trimmed, with confirmation of Lord Risley's suicide, Clive and Maurice's chaste relationship and Maurice's moving "I'm someone else's now" unabridged farewell speech to Clive notably left on the cutting room floor. That said, this remains one of the finest gay period dramas ever produced, laced as it is with first class acting and keen attention to detail, namely the very hallmarks that are synonymous with Merchant Ivory Productions. Highly recommended, goes without saying.

›› available on DVD from Amazon.
›› check out the Official Trailer on YouTube.
›› revised: Saturday, 24th October, 2020.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - the full monty. 
Overall - file under ... 5 stars. 

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