Next Wednesday’s film, The Happy Prince, has a message which is ultimately positive

The Happy Prince

Rupert Everett has written, directed and starred in this film, a project he has toiled for years to get off the ground, and his commitment and belief in the endeavour is evident in every minute. Oscar Wilde’s descent into poverty and illness after release from prison is a period of his life rarely touched upon. His continued dalliance with Bosie, while ruthlessly exploiting loyal friends, sits uncomfortably with the narrative imposed upon him of a martyred hero.

To Everett’s credit, he is unflinching in his examination of Wilde’s ingratitude, self-destruction and downright stupidity, and it says much for his performance that it still holds our interest, given how far his idol had fallen. Distain is largely reserved for Colin Morgan’s Bosie, while sympathies lie with his humiliated ex-wife Constance and his agent Robbie Ross, which Emily Watson and Edwin Thomas carry off with dignified reserve.

It’s tempting to see parallels with Everett’s own fall from grace after coming out, but he lost parts, not his freedom, something he has been quick to acknowledge. While The Happy Prince is a challenging viewing experience its abiding message is therefore positive – that from that point on, things got better.

By David Vass