Greetings again from the darkness. This is one of those prestige movies that simply isn’t as important as it portends to be. That doesn’t mean it’s unwatchable, only that it lacks the emotional weight and depth to which it strives. Director Michael Grandage (GENIUS, 2016) is working from a script that Ron Nyswaner (PHILADELPHIA, 1993) adapted from the 2012 book by Bethan Roberts … itself inspired by the true story of writer EM Forster.
The film employs a familiar structure, alternating between the 1950s and 1990s, utilizing two sets of actors playing three main characters. Pop star Harry Styles and his handsome face and lush head of hair plays young police officer Tom, who one day at the beach is introduced to the lovely and educated Marion (Emma Corrin, Lady Di in “The Crown”). The two begin spending a good deal of time together with Tom being the perfect ‘gentleman’, even after an extended courtship. He introduces art-loving Marion to his friend Patrick (David Dawson, ALL THE OLD KNIVES, 2022), a museum curator who has many common interests with Marion … including that of Tom.
The decades-later episodes find Marion (Gina McKee, IN THE LOOP, 2009) inviting stroke victim Patrick (Rupert Everett) to convalesce at the seaside village home she shares with long-time husband Tom (Linus Roche, BATMAN BEGINS, 2005). What we learn is that Marion has done so out of guilt and Tom is not happy with her for doing so, and completely avoids his long-ago friend by taking an inordinate number of walks with his dog along the shoreline. If the two time periods aren’t enough for us to understand these relationships, older Marion begins reading Patrick’s diaries from those past years and learns the details of what she suspected all along. This cruel invasion of privacy goes far beyond the doubts her younger self had when she saw the portrait of Tom that Patrick drew, or the time Patrick hired Tom as an assistant on art excursion to Venice.
The film opens with Dean Martin crooning his classic, “Memories are Made of This”, and while it may be an obvious precursor to what we are to watch, it’s always a pleasure to hear Dean on a modern sound system. The three characters navigate (quite poorly actually) a messy taboo triangle of love, passion, and deceit, making for a mostly sad story from all angles. It may stress the 1950’s attitudes toward sexual preferences, but mostly it shows how the past is always present … always hovering, even over once-close friendships and loves.
The film opens in select theaters on October 21 and on Prime Video on November 4, 2022