Directed by and starring Everett, this poignant dramatisation of Wilde’s final years in exile is a powerful parable of passion and redemption
It is a part he was born to play, and he does it with exactly the right kind of poignantly ruined magnificence. Rupert Everett has written, directed and starred in this gripping drama about Oscar Wilde’s final years: his disgraced exile-agony in Naples and Paris on being released from prison after the conviction for “gross indecency”. This was the result of his indiscreet affair with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, whose enraged, reactionary father, the Marquess of Queensberry, had provoked Wilde’s catastrophic libel action following an accusation of his “posing as a somdomite”. Queensberry’s famously odd misspelling is silently corrected in this film’s opening titles. Over the closing credits – like The Imitation Game, about Alan Turing – it gives us the infuriating information that its subject has been posthumously “pardoned” by the British authorities. It’s Wilde (and Turing) who should be doing the pardoning.
Everett’s movie is expertly interspersed with flashbacks to Wilde’s great days and to his initial wary optimism on first arriving in France on the boat train. But the movie shows him living and dying in squalor and illness, succumbing to the delayed shock of his prison nightmare, jeered at and spat on by the expatriate Brits who recognised him, unprotected by his quibbling pseudonym “Sebastian Melmoth” – that two-word creation which was his final literary work of drollery.