Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom, 2002. Screenplay by Duncan Roy. Cinematography by Steve Brooke Smith, Ingrid Domeij, Steve Smith, Scott Taylor, Claire Vinson. Produced by Richard West. Music by Matt Rowe. Production Design by Philip Robinson. Costume Design by Digby Howard, Becky Seagar, Andrea Swales, David Thomas. Film Editing by Victoria Boydell, Lawrence Catford, Jon Cross, Jackie Ophir.
Director Duncan Roy fictionalizes his own wayward youth in this intelligent and affecting drama. Matthew Leitch is terrific as a teenager from dowdy Essex who escapes his father’s sexual abuse through fantasizing about being an aristocrat, a world he witnesses through his mother as she serves lunch daily to members of the posh set. When he finally decides to break free and go his own way, he pursues a relationship with a snobby baroness (Diana Quick) that eventually leads to him posing as her son in Paris. He strikes up a relationship with an American hustler putting out for another rich Brit’s cash, leading to a struggle between the dream life he is so ably pulling off and the burgeoning sexual identity that his friend is inspiring, while back in England a credit fraud investigator gets wind of the young man’s unpaid bill and goes on the hunt for him. The great cast is a highlight, especially Quick playing the bitchy grande dame without a lick of apology, but Roy’s somewhat one-note take on the titled snobs thins the drama. Their treatment of their inferiors is akin to the way white slave owners behave in period dramas, which is probably not far from accurate but here done with such a spirit of resentment, that what should be an ironic exploration of this young man’s enjoyable recklessness feels more like an after-the-fact justification of his heinous behavior (even though, again, much of it didn’t do much harm to anyone in his way). That said, it’s quite fascinating given that it’s based on real events, and the ease with which Leitch gets away with things simply by preying on presumptions is delightfully funny.