Cerisaye's Review

Everyone knows Oscar Wilde served two years hard labour in Reading gaol, martyred for the love that dare not speak its name.† Wilde has rightly become a gay icon, celebrated more for his sexuality than as poet, craftsman of witty and elegant plays and writer of homoerotic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

This beautifully crafted film, obviously a labour of love, explains how Wilde ended up dying in genteel poverty at the shockingly early age of 46, exiled in Paris.† Itís a marked contrast to opening scenes depicting Oscarís triumph in Americaís West.† You canít help but wonder how different might his life have been had he stayed there.

Stephen Fry was born to play Wilde, famously large and awkward despite his eccentric style of dress. He inhabits the role like a second skin, becoming Oscar, from avuncular family man telling stories to two adoring sons, to the broken man who lost everything for love .†

Jude Law makes an absolutely perfect Bosie, Lord Alfred Douglas, the aristocratic youth whose beauty and charm captivated Wilde to the exclusion of family, friends and career.† Law shows the mercurial duality of Bosie, petulant and unspeakably cruel one moment, loving and tender the next.†

Bosieís obnoxious father is played by excellent character actor Tom Wilkinson.† The poisonous Lord Shaftesbury pursued Oscar and his son with a vehement homophobia that leads to suspicions about his sexuality.† Oscar is persuaded by love of Bosie to pursue the libel trial against Shaftesbury that resulted in his conviction for gross indecency, contemporary code for homosexual pratices.† Ironically the film makes clear the sexual aspect of their relationship ceased early on, replaced by idealised platonic love Wilde spoke about so passionately at his trial.† I was minded of Irishman MacMurrough, equally tragic figure from At Swim Two Boys, for whom Wilde was a role model.

Jennifer Ehle is Wildeís wife Constance.† She spends much of the film smiling indulgently at her husband and his coterie of beautiful adoring boys.† Did she understand on some level her husbandís nature?† She invited Canadian Robbie Ross into her home, a sweet and adoring youth whose lasting love for Wilde was never reciprocated, moreís the pity.

Sex in the film is tasteful, with enough eroticism to tingle and plenty of naked male flesh.† As well as delectable Jude, thereís Ioan Gruffudd, smouldering Celt famous as TVís Hornblower.† Look out too for Orlando Bloom, pre-fame, as a pretty rent boy.† Highly recommended.