IMDb > "Great Performances" The Lost Language of Cranes (1991)

"Great Performances" The Lost Language of Cranes (1991)

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David Leavitt (novel)
Sean Mathias (writer)
View company contact information for The Lost Language of Cranes on IMDbPro.
Original Air Date:
14 November 1991 (Season 20, Episode 17)
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. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
User Reviews:
Hypnotizing family drama See more (16 total) »


 (Episode Cast) (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Brian Cox ... Owen Benjamin

Eileen Atkins ... Rose Benjamin

Angus Macfadyen ... Philip Benjamin

Corey Parker ... Elliot Abrahams

Rene Auberjonois ... Geoffrey Lane

John Schlesinger ... Derek Moulthorpe
Cathy Tyson ... Jerene Parks
Richard Warwick ... Frank
Nicholas Le Prevost ... Nick

Ben Daniels ... Robin Bradley
Frank Middlemass ... Alex

Nigel Whitmey ... Winston Penn
Edmund Kente ... Bob
Paul Cottingham ... Porno Boy 1
Tom Harden ... Porno Boy 2
Sjaak Van der Bent ... Singer

Adam Matalon ... Doorman
Ben McVeigh ... Crane Child

Episode Crew
Directed by
Nigel Finch 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
David Leavitt  novel
Sean Mathias  writer

Produced by
Ruth Caleb .... producer
Kimberly Myers .... executive producer
Mark Shivas .... executive producer
Original Music by
Julian Wastall 
Cinematography by
Remi Adefarasin 
Film Editing by
Sue Wyatt 
Production Design by
Bruce Macadie 
Costume Design by
James Keast 
Makeup Department
Fran Needham .... makeup designer
Sound Department
John Pritchard .... sound
Camera and Electrical Department
Paddy Blake .... assistant camera
Sean Savage .... assistant camera

Series Crew
These people are regular crew members. Were they in this episode?
Directed by
John Doyle 
John Glenmeister (episode "Man Who Married a French Wife, the")
Nick Havinga (episode "Girls in Their Summer Dresses") (episode "Monument, The")
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Marion J. Caffey  creator
Daniel Ezralow  creator
Josh Groban  creator

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

UK:87 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:


Wasn't this originally shown on BBC in the early '90s?
See more »
6 out of 8 people found the following review useful.
Hypnotizing family drama, 11 November 2000
Author: ( from USA

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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