“Brideshead Revisited” is based on a novel by Evelyn Waugh. Like most of Waugh’s characters, the people who inhabit this tale are nice-looking, wealthy, bright, clever, privileged and somehow pitiable. The question is, can the one who seems to have his life together make it to the end, and can those who falter with guilt and sin find redemption?
Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode, “The Lookout,” “Match Point”) meets Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw, “I ‘m Not There”) his first night at Oxford, and the two become inseparable friends. Sebastian would like the relationship to go further, and Charles seems almost willing until he meets Flyte’s sister, Julia (Hayley Atwell, “Cassandra’s Dream”), and then his loyalties become strained.
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” co-stars Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon are along as Sebastian and Julia’s parents. The Flytes’ Catholic faith seems always on the verge of tearing everyone apart. Can you mock the church and then come home at the moment of death? Can adulterers and homosexuals be forgiven, and if so, what sacrifices must they make?
Julian Jarrold (“Becoming Jane”) directs with a skillful but light touch. Waugh, who was a late convert to Catholicism, had much on his mind when the world he’d so nastily satirized before World War II changed for the worse after it.
This is a sharp, clever film with a script by Andrew Davis and Jeremy Brock that slices like a scalpel. It’s a movie for adults who are willing to think while they’re laughing.