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:: Brideshead Revisited

First of all, don’t get put off by the title of ‘Brideshead Revisited’; this is not a sequel to anything, just another version of Evelyn Waugh’s novel raising it’s head in the film world. The unfortunate thing for this version is that the novel has appeared on the big screen (and the small screen) so many times that everyone can compare the 2008 version to its predecessors.

For those unfamiliar to the story ‘Brideshead Revisited’ tells the story of Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode), a middle-class painter who on his arrival at Oxford University meets the flamboyant, Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw). Sebastian takes Charles under his wing and introduces him to his deeply-religious family. Charles falls in love with the family home, Brideshead and Sebastian’s sister, Julia (Hayley Atwell). Sebastian’s mother, Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson) tries to lure Charles deeper into the family, but the stubborn atheist refuses to follow her schemes but instead finds himself enchanted by Julia. This in turn sees Sebastian begin a downward spiral and Charles sent away from the family. Can he ever get back to Brideshead.

Anyone that sees this film will instantly find themselves comparing it to the brilliant television series that screened in 2005. Some things were better in the television series but some where better in this version. The television series had the luxury of time. This version runs for 135mins… lengthy by modern standards. And this has to be one of the weaknesses of the film. The first hour (which largely focuses on the early days of Charles and Sebastian’s friendship) flows along nicely but the second hour which focuses later on in Charles’s life seems to drag, and some important events were lightly touched on as it seems director, Julian Jarrold realised his film was heading dangerously over time. As a result you don’t really get a satisfactory ending to Sebastian’s story.

One of the advantages of this version though is that they have been able to take a more risqué approach to the story’s homosexual theme. Sebastian’s crush on Charles is shown more predominantly and even Charles’s interaction with the ‘Sodomites’ at Oxford is explored more in depth and this gives the viewer more of an insight into just how desperate Charles was to fit in with a group somewhere.

Acting wise, all the performances hold up, with of course Emma Thompson shining in the role of Lady Marchmain, who takes her place on the list of ‘One of Cinema’s Greatest Villains’. Hayley Atwell was born to play the role of Julia, and there’s no doubt that she will receive award nominations for her role. And while Matthew Goode and Ben Whishaw are good in their roles of Charles and Sebastian you do get an eerie feeling that they weren’t the first choices for the role… and a little investigation shows that feeling is correct, originally Paul Bettany and Jude Law were attached to the project.

While not a classic in the period-piece genre, ‘Brideshead Revisited’ will be found to be more than adequate for anyone who enjoys films such as ‘Pride And Prejudice’. The film itself is worthwhile seeing for some masterful cinematography that allows the audience to fall in love with Brideshead (the house) in the same way Charles does.