Rupert Everett fought for years to bring together this story of Oscar Wildes final days. It was worth it. As well as directing, he stars as the man himself, a role hes familiar with after playing him on stage, but one he still brings fresh perspective to.
His Wilde is not the witty, luminescent figure of past biopics. Bloated and shambolic, living in isolation in France having been banished from Britain, Everett portrays him as someone wrecked by the prejudices of his time. One sequence, in which Wilde is abused on a train station platform, is horrifying. His fall from favour is underlined by flashbacks, as the playwright is threatened and reviled by those who used to applaud him. In many ways, the loss of his audience is the blow that hurts the most.
This isnt entirely a story of persecution, however. The film points to Wildes obsession with selfish dandy Bosie (Colin Morgan) as the catalyst for his downfall, and shows the pain he causes those who have his best interests at heart. Chief among those scorned are Wildes besotted friend Robbie (Edwin Thomas) and his ex-wife Constance (Emily Watson), still very much in love with him despite the social ruin his sexuality has brought upon her. Its a suitably complex examination of a man who made mistakes personally but paid a crushingly heavy price.
There are interesting, albeit brief, appearances from the likes of Colin Firth and Tom Wilkinson, but theres only one star of the show. Everett puts every ounce of his talent into this project, and creates perhaps the finest work of his career.