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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
This docu-drama may err more on the side of docu than drama but it is nevertheless pertinent, beautifully made and ultimately very moving. Written and directed by Patrick Reams, it tells the story of the famous Lord Montagu trial in the early fifties when a peer of the realm and a well-known British journalist were arrested and tried for gross indecency and buggery. The high-profile nature of the trial in turn lead to the establishment of the Wolfenden Committee and ultimately to the decriminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults in Britain.
Part history lesson, part polemic and part love story Reams' film shows just how terrible life could be for practicing homosexuals in the 1950's. It may all seem a lifetime away from today when gay role-models now seem to be ten-a-penny, (young gays may wonder what all the fuss is about), yet it is films like this that make us realize just who are heroes are and the debt we owe to men like Peter Wildeblood, the journalist in question who sealed his fate by admitting his homosexuality in court.
Alternating between a dramatization of events and a 'talking heads' approach in which elderly gay men who were either directly caught up in the events or simply remembered them talk directly to the camera, it is never less than engrossing. At times I found it deeply depressing but ultimately it is both uplifting and deeply moving and a credit to everyone involved.
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