The Happy Prince – Film Review by Katie McCann
Director: Rupert Everett
Writer: Rupert Everett
Stars: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Emily Watson
The life and death of Oscar Wilde is one that has fascinated people for years. He was the epitome of “how the mighty fall” when at the height of his fame he was convicted of gross indecency in 1895 and died destitute in Paris in 1900. It is these last few years of Wilde’s life that Rupert Everett focuses on his new film The Happy Prince.
Using the children’s fable The Happy Prince, written by Wilde, Everett looks at the last few desperate years of Wilde’s life and his destructive relationship with his lover Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (played wonderfully by Colin Morgan). The fable is told alongside the tragedy of Wilde’s downfall and while the time line of the film jumps around it is this story that anchors us, showing the drive towards a tragic end linked with Wilde himself. What makes this period in Wilde’s life so interesting to focus on is how we usually see Wilde portrayed as the care free fob he was at the start of his career. Here is a very different Wilde. A man destroyed by his time in prison, who has lost everything and wwhose drive to love pushes him towards his bitter end.
Everett is a brilliant choice for Wilde. His large imposing frame and foppish smiling rings true to the standard view of Oscar Wilde. He captures the nuances of the man brilliantly and how he desperately fought to hold on to his life after his time in Redding Goal. This is clearly a film that is a labour of love for Everett as he not only stars in the film but he also writes and directs. Overall he does a good job at the head of this ship steering the complex storyline back and forth but unfortunately, at times it does feel a little muddled. Hopping all over the place there is a sense that the focus of the piece is lost towards the end as Wilde slips away gripped by illness and more and more into memory.
But the overall spirit of the film is true to the life of a man whose genius still shines today. It is a bitter sweet tale told with kindness about a dreadful need to be loved. Everett and his cast shine a light on the injustice faced by Wilde and in the final credits it is shocking to see that Wilde was only pardoned of his “crime” of homosexuality in 2017. A little late for the man who died believing his work would never be performed again but shows how far the world has come since the days of Wilde.