Rupert Everett offers a mesmerising and heartfelt performance as Oscar Wilde in this vivid and fascinating film.
At this point in his career there mustn’t be anything that Rupert Everett doesn’t know about Oscar Wilde. Having portrayed the playwright on stage as well as having starred in the film adaptations of his plays such as ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and ‘An Ideal Husband’, it seems appropriate that he both directs and stars in this moving and mesmerising film about his final days.
Through a variety of snapshots of memories, Oscar Wilde (Rupert Everett) lies on his death bed in a room in Paris piecing together both his successes and regrets throughout his life to offer a mixture of redemption and peace. The result is an insightful, respectful and heartbreaking biopic about the rise and ultimate fall of this famous playwright.
Beautifully directed by Everett and despite the jumping backwards and forwards in time which can be slightly disorientating to watch (particularly if you aren’t familiar with the timeline of some of the events of Wilde’s life), this is a film that offers a refreshing perspective of Oscar Wilde.
In particular, the moments in which you see Wilde at his lowest ebb such as the horror that he suffered when he went to prison or when he and his friends Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) and Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) are chased into a church and verbally abused are powerful and vivid. It is moments like this when Everett strips away Wilde’s exuberance that he becomes more vulnerable and sympathetic.
Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde delivers an extraordinarily detailed performance that captures all of the different elements of Wilde’s personality – but without it ever feeling simply an impersonation. Everett delves deep into the world that surrounded Wilde – the exeuberance, the wildness and creates a performance that is both warm and vivid. A highlight of his performance comes when Wilde is lying on his deathbed, trying to apologise to his sons for what he has done – a moment that genuinely breaks the heart.
The film boasts of a strong supporting cast – not least from Colin Morgan as the vulgar, vindictive and plain nasty Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, whose on and off again relationship with Wilde forms the centre of the story. It is a performance filled with charisma, subtly highlighting the character’s growing selfishness and dismissal of Wilde’s feelings – highlighted so well during the uncomfortable lunch scene.
Elsewhere, Edwin Thomas offers a steady and instantly likeable performance as Robbie Ross – whose loyalty towards Wilde never truly wavers no matter how badly the playwright treats him. The scenes in which he and Everett perform together reveal the strength of their acting and their character’s bond.
The way in which the film shows the playwright’s life from his perspective means that although perhaps relationships with his friends and to a lesser extent with his wife (played by an excellent Emily Watson) are not explored fully given the sharpness of some of the scenes, but it also means you get a sense of his loneliness and isolation at the end to a fuller effect.
It is a film that leaves no detail out and you come away from watching it with a deeper understanding of the extraordinary life that Wilde lived. But also thanks to the way in which the film has been constructed to see his life through his eyes and memories, you really feel the sadness at the way in which Wilde’s life ended.
The Happy Prince is an extraordinary film that is heartfelt and warm but tinged with a sense of sadness that stays with you long after the film has ended.
By Emma Clarendon
The Happy Prince is available on Digital Download from the 8th October and on DVD and Blu-Ray from the 15th October.