Nick Guest (Dan Stevens) comes to London to live with his college friend's family, the Feddens. A short stay becomes permanent, and Nick positions himself in the family's plentiful lives of parties and politics during the Thatcher years. Over the course of three episodes spanning four years in the mid eighties, we follow Nick's two homosexual love affairs in a time of promiscuity and carelessness, until the A.I.D.S. crisis, and a bout of scandal, threaten life as he has come to know it.Written by
Peter Brandt Nielsen
The Disparities and Dichotomies Between Classes: Consequences
Alan Hollinghurst's brilliant novel THE LINE OF BEAUTY has been well adapted for film by Andrew Davies and brought to BBC television by director Saul Dibb and an outstanding cast. That television miniseries is now available on one DVD with each of the three parts intact as seen in the UK (not the parceled version shown in the USA) and it is a satisfying transition from Hollinghurst's visual poetry to cinematic depiction.
The story takes place from 1983 to 1987 in England - the Thatcher years - when class differences, hypocrisies, paparazzi, and homophobia were peaking. Essentially the tour guide through this time is one Nicholas Guest (Dan Stephens), a 'middle class' son of an antiques dealer who has just finished Oxford (on scholarship) and visits the home of his wealthy roommate Toby Fedden (Oliver Coleman) whose father Gerald (Tim McInnerny) is climbing the steps of politics as his warmly understanding and supportive wife Rachel (Alice Krige) looks on and worries about their knotty daughter Cat (Hayley Atwill) who loathes politics and sees the hypocrisy spoken by all of her father's associates. Nick is welcomed into the family with genuine warmth and he is smitten by the grandeur of their lifestyle and the beauty of their home: he becomes their surrogate son when Toby leaves for adventures with his shallow sweetheart, taking care of at times self-mutilating Cat.
Nicholas is gay, finds love with a lower class handsome black man Leo (Don Gilet), and shares his proclivities with Cat, his confidant. Insidiously Nick becomes a full part of the Fedden family, serving as a son would, entertaining at parties with them, and meeting the important people whom Gerald engages in his political pyramid. Among them is a Lebanese family whose wealthy son Wani Ouradi (Alex Wyndham) catches Nick's eye and though Wani is 'engaged' to a girl he also is a severely closeted gay man and Nick and Wani become entwined in drugs and love. When the spectre of AIDS begins to diminish the population of England some secrets are revealed, secrets of sexual liaisons that are intolerable for the Feddens and their associates yet lead to the hypocrisy of affairs within Gerald Fedden's protected world. It is the surfacing of the true lives of the characters that proves to be the downfall of Nicholas and his relationship to the world of wealth as well as the crumbling of the fragile political, media-infested world of Gerald Fedden's creation.
The cast is uniformly excellent and Dibb is able to coax the acrid aura of England of the 1980s with lucidity and a sensitive eye for revealing corruption and fractured human relationships. If the viewer is left with the feeling that Nicholas does not really deserve our concern because of his hollow devotion to wealth as a means to happiness then the point of Hollinghurst's novel has been well served. The film is not without flaws (a pianist at one of the soirées, we are told by supertitles, is paying Grieg's Piano Concerto....when that could not be further from reality!), and insufficient time is given to the Nick/Wani and Nick/Leo relationships to allow us into the inner sanctum of gay life in this tough time, etc., it still is an engrossing drama and one very well played by credible actors. Grady Harp
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