"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 11/8/95)

By Monica Sullivan

People who say that a woman is ahead of her time are usually men. Since so little is expected of them, woman often follow paths which make more sense to them as individuals than to anyone else, including many of their male biographers. Dora Carrington was an early 20th century eccentric & a wonderful painter. She fell in love with the witty, sickly & broke gay male writer Lytton Strachey. Although she didn't fully realise it until he was on his deathbed, Strachey fell in love with her, too.

They lived together for many years, meeting their sexual needs with other partners, but arranging their entire lives so they could be together. Writer / director Christopher Hampton goes into considerable detail about the financial arrangements the two have to make to live together & I'm afraid I lost track of the count & the amount during one of Carrington's many affairs. But Jonathan Pryce & Emma Thompson are just dear as the unlikely couple who wrote their own rules in the idyllic English countryside.

What do they see in each other? It's only obvious. He is honest, charming & fun, she is loyal, loving & unique. Except for Strachey, Carrington is accountable to no one but herself, certainly not to a spouse or her many loves. But she's as strung on Strachey as a woman can be. Strachey's light, dry, satirical books are still in print, including his biography of Queen Victoria which is considered to be his masterpiece. For his time, Strachey's biographical approach was revolutionary: no previous writer had succeeded in revealing an icon like Victoria in such deeply human terms.

Jonathan Pryce does a beautiful job showing just why Lytton Strachey captivated his generation and Emma Thompson is an ideal foil as his much-loved companion who is quirky to everyone but herself. Art critics (who rarely ever wrote about her before this movie) complain that we don't get to see enough of Carrington's work in this film. We don't get to read any of Strachey's work, either. This is above all a sensitively rendered love story & Hampton & cast deserve high marks for making it so vital & real to contemporary audiences.

Copyright 1995 Monica Sullivan

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