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A Very British Sex Scandal tells the story of Peter Wildeblood, a royal correspondent for the Daily Mail newspaper. He is a closet homosexual and like many gay men at that time, lives in secret as homosexuality is against the law. One evening he meets Eddie McNally, who is on leave from the air force and the pair embark on an affair together. However, it is their weekend at the estate of Lord Edward Montagu which eventually leads to a scandal which rocked modern Britain and led to a reconsideration of, and the eventual decriminilisation of homosexuality. Written by
Engaging mix of drama and documentary with the latter being strong even if the former is a bit cold
Shown as part of Channel 4's "40 years out" season of films to make the anniversary of the legalisation of male homosexuality in the UK, this film looks back at a period where a high profile homosexuality trial (the Lord Montague case) was conducted at the same time as a Common's committee was reviewing the legal situation and the possibility of legalisation of the "Huntleys" and their acts when conducted in private with mutual consent. The structure of the film mixed contributions from those involved at the time, a narrator delivering a frame not unlike a documentary, all over a dramatisation of the salient points and sequences.
The mix is not one I expected to work that well but actually it does. The film does focus more on the documentary aspect and as such the occasional attempts to flesh out the characters or provide something in the way of emotional involvement with them don't really come off. However I think this also protects the film from the usual trap of this approach, which is terribly hammy acting that don't work within the documentary side and mostly the rather crisp drama sequences work well as a result. The fact that they do lack flamboyant turns fits with the documentary approach and this is backed up by the cinematography, which again is quite crisp and gives the air of a factual presentation rather than a dramatic one.
The cast also match this as they provide restrained yet engaging performances. Of most note are turns from Hutson, Wells, Le Prevost and a few others. Overall then this is an engaging and interesting film that does mix the drama and documentary styles together to good effect.
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