The Happy Prince
Stars: Rupert Everett, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Emily Watson, Colin Firth
Rupert Everett already has an association with Oscar Wilde having appeared in big screen adaptations of The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband. He also played the writer/wit on stage in David Hare’s play The Judas Kiss. For his directorial debut, Everett chronicles Wilde’s self-imposed exile in France, following his incarceration in Reading Gaol for gross indecency. The picture shuffles the chronology, flashing back to illustrate brief glimpses of his glory days as the toast of the theatre world, and Oscar’s home life as he reads the titular story to his children. An underused Emily Watson is his abandoned wife, Constance. We see Wilde creating a surrogate family via his relationship with two Paris urchins. While holding court in lowlife pubs and bistros, Oscar is visited by faithful friends: his devoted executor Robbie Ross (Thomas) and fellow writer Reggie Turner (Firth). Some much-needed drama is injected into proceedings with the arrival of Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas (Morgan), the handsome young mediocrity that Wilde was besotted with, and whose outraged father on discovering his son’s affair with Wilde, engineered the writer’s downfall. Those looking for bon mots and bonhomie will be disappointed; this is a downbeat depiction of Wilde’s wilderness years, shot in murky autumnal colours. The ever-shifting chronology can be disorientating, and robs the film of any focus, but Everett’s heartfelt and elegiac performance holds it together.