Film Review: MAN IN AN ORANGE SUIT (PBS)

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by Dale Reynolds on September 4, 2018

in CD-DVD,Film

COMING OUT OVER 60 YEARS

Finally LGBTQ films are taking a hold on the world’s psyche and quality work is being appreciated and rewarded with increased viewership. One of these fine dramas is 2017’s Man in an Orange Shirt, a far too-literary title for an engrossing two tales of gay romance set sixty years apart.

Gay novelist Patrick Gale writes his television debut with two connected storylines that accurately reflect how homophobia worked its nasty way during and after World War II, where two British officers meet and fall in love in a recovery hospital, and in today’s world, where the grandson of one of the officers gets to overcome another prejudice – racism – in order to let nature take its proper course.

Studiously directed by Michael Samuels, the cast, using stalwart elder Brit veteran actors such as the great Vanessa Redgrave and her equal, Francis de la Tour, as well Julian Sands and Joanna David, along with strongly supporting younger actors, accurately portrays how the clumsy anti-gay laws of the earlier era (repealed in 1967), and sixty years on, with the now-accepted changes in the laws making serious relationships easier to maintain.

The film opens with two handsome officers, Michael Berryman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and painter Tom March (James McArdle), beginning a forbidden love affair in a chaotic Italy at war’s end, and how the times being what they were destroys the deeply-held feelings between the two men. Michael, engaged to Flora (Joanna Vanderham) before being drafted, returns home to marry her, wounded and hiding this new “friendship,” but the toll it takes on all three is the story.

The second tale opens with Flora (Ms. Redgrave) as the elderly widow of Michael, engaging us with her strong connection with her gay grandson, Adam (Julien Morris), who is open about his budding liaison with Steve (David Gyasi), who is Black, thus the symmetry of the two stories.  (Hummm, it really does seem like a delicious inside joke to name these two men after the homophobic slander about “God having created Adam and Eve, not Adam and….” well, you know.)

Shot in two parts by BBC as part of its Gay Britannia season in commemorative showcasing of stories (fictional and non-) of the 50th anniversary of the repeal of the Sexual Offences Act, the film is timely, indeed. (Apparently screenwriter Gale’s father also had to hide that unforgivable side of himself, leaving letters which his widow burned out of shame and homophobia.)

Written over a period of six years, Gale’s talents are clearly on display as the two stories interweave, bobbing and nodding secretly to each other. And, now with the subject matter lessening in condemnations, younger actors are able to take on these well-written roles, including nudity, which director Samuels uses discretely.

Beautifully photographed (by Wojciech Szepel) with a subtle score by Dan Jones, the film commands our attention and is, safe to say, easy on the eyes and ears.

The Man in an Orange Shirt
PBS Masterpiece
2017 | 112 minutes | British | 1 disc
released June 19, 2018
to order, visit Amazon or PBS

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