›› Man in an Orange Shirt ‹‹

a drama by Michael Samuels.

2017 | 2 x 60 mins | UK.

a good old-fashioned, if somewhat bittersweet gay love story.

Dave says:

Specially written for the small screen by best-selling author Patrick Gale as one of the cornerstones of the BBC's Gay Britannia season, this interlinked two-part drama vividly contrasts a forbidden wartime love with a present-day romance, nearly derailed by the consequences of its intertwined 1940s tale.

In the opening part, Oliver Jackson-Cohen plays Captain Michael Berryman; a WWII Officer who rushes back at the end of the war to spend time with war artist Thomas March (James McArdle); namely a man known briefly to him from his school days and later a chance encounter on the bloodstained battle fields of Southern Italy in 1944. Relaxing at the family cottage, rather than in the arms of his wife-to-be Flora (Joanna Vanderham), their time together represents the blissful life they could - should have had. Only this is the era when sexual acts between men are a crime, punishable by imprisonment and all too soon, their carefree days come to an end when Michael with the burden of social conformity upon him enters into a lavender marriage, with the man he loves reduced to being his best man.

In short, this is the all too real for its day tale of three people trapped in a life they would otherwise not wish to lead, with Vanderham achingly expressing the emotions of a woman who by way of the discovery of Thomas' wartime love letters to her husband realizes that the man she married, cannot truly love her. For his love belongs to another man. Yet the way in which the two face up to the reality of their love differs greatly, with Michael seemingly more than happy to play the role of a dutiful husband, only for Thomas to take to cottaging, an act that would see him behind bars and a visit from Michael that's all too painful for him to bear. Heartbreakingly honest as a result, all three yearn for the happiness that will forever evade them.

So cut to the present-day, in a story that finds gay grandson Adam (Julian Morris) staying in the basement flat of Flora's London house. Yet Adam is not out to his grandmother; an ironic situation when he's out to every man he can lay his hands on, courtesy of his obsession with dating apps of the man-on-man variety. Seemingly worlds apart, the two actually share a common theme, that of not being able to come to terms with the truth; Flora with her past and Adam with the man he loves, namely charming architect Steve (David Gyasi) who in restoring the family cottage finds a man so addicted to one-night stands, that he's incapable of embracing love even when it's standing right in front of him. With the relationship between Flora and her grandson and Adam and Steve at breaking point, could the discovery of a painting and words of love never sent, finally bring peace of mind to one and all?

And the answer to that is all but obvious given this is but a good old-fashioned, if somewhat bittersweet gay love story, one that it has to be said is well-played by one and all and in particular by Vanessa Redgrave who going against type, is outstanding in the role of a woman finding it difficult to come to terms with the homosexual root of the family tree. That writer Patrick Gale created two separate gay love stories set generations apart and wove them into one, is to his credit, even if the success of that is somewhat subjective, given and not surprisingly both tales differ greatly in terms of sexual content, with the second far more sexually upfront than the first, with Morris as closeted grandson Adam frequently naked, his libido a slave to casual sex, being all too happy to leave the company of close friends for a sexual high, only to be disgusted with himself thereafter.

Laced with a myriad of raw emotions that nicely contrast with some quite tender moments, together with a number of cameos from the likes of Laura Carmichael, Julian Sands and Frances de la Tour as open-minded Mrs. March, frankly, there's a lot to like here, even if personally I would have preferred to have seen the first story developed into a feature length drama, given here the Jackson-Cohen / McArdle pairing excel in their differing roles, along the way creating a lush screen chemistry between them. All of which makes for a beautifully crafted work that poignantly showcases how the love that once dared not speak its name, is today spoken with outright pride. Albeit; clearly not in all parts of the world. Simply wondrous.

›› a BBC2 drama premiere: Monday.31.July.2017 part #1 / Monday.7.August.2017 part #2.
›› available as part of the NETWORK catalogue: 18th September, 2017 / UK.
›› posted: Friday, 28th October, 2022.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - bare-arsed cheek | Overall - file under ... 4 stars

›› copyright © 2022 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com ‹‹
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