Great Performances: Season 20, Episode 17

The Lost Language of Cranes (24 Jun. 1992)

TV Episode  |   |  Biography, Drama, Music
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 488 users  
Reviews: 16 user | 3 critic

When a young gay man comes out of the closet. His friends support him, but when he comes out to his parents, he stirs up a wealth of hidden feelings and secrets in their relationship.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Owen Benjamin
Rose Benjamin
Philip Benjamin
Elliot Abrahams
Geoffrey Lane
Derek Moulthorpe
Cathy Tyson ...
Jerene Parks
Richard Warwick ...
Nicholas Le Prevost ...
Robin Bradley
Frank Middlemass ...
Winston Penn
Edmund Kente ...
Paul Cottingham ...
Porno Boy 1
Tom Harden ...
Porno Boy 2


When a young gay may comes out of the closet. His friends support him, but when he comes out to his parents, he stirs up a wealth of hidden feelings and secrets in their relationship. Written by Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis






Release Date:

24 June 1992 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Hypnotizing family drama
11 November 2000 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

I was alternately surprised, impressed, and repelled by this film. This is not actually a gay love story, but the story of a family, and how they deal with (and not deal with) the truth. Both the father and the son are gay, and the mother, Rose (Eileen Atkins), lives in denial for years, until her son, Philip (Angus Macfadyen), bravely tears the walls down.

Rose is sharp as a tack, but so tightly controlled, she doesn't allow the truth to sink in. Not much goes over her head, but when the information doesn't fit into her plans, she simply ignores it. When she finally faces the reality of her marriage, it falls apart.

Owen (Brian Cox) is the father-- his whole life, he has lived a lie. His character is weak and not very bright, but he means well. He does his duty in caring for his family, and it's clear he genuinely loves them. Unfortunately, he's the most childlike in the family--he reacts, rather than initiates, and he remains childlike till the end.

Philip is the catalyst in the family--he brings the secrets out in the open. His character shows a lot of wisdom and initiative, both in his family and love relationships. This was Angus Macfadyen's first major film, although it was originally a BBC production. He is young, lean and amazingly sensitive in his performance. He is so good in this role, I was convinced he is gay.

The writers of the film (David Leavitt, Sean Mathias) suggest that homosexuality is the result of both environment and genetics. Elliot, Philip's lover, is the adopted son of two gay men. Philip is the biological son of a man who is gay. Elliot's housemate, a social worker, reveals that a child's life is shaped by his environment after he is neglected and left alone--he begins to imitate a crane, the only stimulation he has. Another case is revealed, of two twins who have their own secret language. It's a fascinating subject to speculate on if you like to figure out what makes people tick (I do).

The acting all around is phenomenal. The director too (Nigel Finch), did a wonderful job. So much is said with looks and gestures, volumes are communicated with eyes alone. Nothing was glossed over in this film--each character has his/her own strengths and weakness, both gay and straight. How refreshing, especially in a film about intimacy.

The music is also good. The whole atmosphere is one of loneliness and desperation, and it's fascinating to watch, from an American perspective, because we just don't make movies like that. Our films are usually much more glamorized or dramatized, so this film was especially magnetic to me.

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