WHAT I LIKED: E.M Forster's book 'Maurice,' is a year-spaning tragedy that follows two young gentlemen fall in love at Cambridge university in the early 1900s, and their subsequent struggle through early adulthood to hide and then attempt to move on from it.
That on its own makes this film adaptation worthy and pretty heartbreaking to some degree, as it brings to life the terrible persecution and judgment that queer people suffered here not all that long ago with the main characters bring forced to sneak around, living in constant fear of being seen and locked up like we see happen to someone half way through.
That's upsetting to watch, especially because it's all within the context of such a heartbreaking character story that's realised so well by the two central performances. Hugh Grant plays the bubbly, confrontational and pragmatic Clive very broad, whilst James Wilby plays Maurice in a much more nuanced way - as a shy, happy-go-lucky romantic who slowly cracks and breaks as he hangs on to his forbidden love.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The trouble is that you don't get a lot of room to emotionally engage with the characters because it whisks along at such an unbelievable pace.
I can scarcely think of a film where every scene is so short, as almost all here involve a quick establishing shot, or characters walking into the setting, then no more than half a page of dialogue or interaction, then their departure as we're whisked onto the next. That's in part down to the rather wordy script not leaving much room for visual storytelling, but it's mostly down to director James Ivory not embellishing that material with any cinematic focus. He rarely lingers for close ups to really get under the skin of or translate what the characters are feeling, and almost never stays beyond what the script has to offer. That's especially problematic in the supposedly passionate scenes which feel somewhat neutered, but it always means you never truly get the room to fully engage emotionally, and are instead left imagining a depth of feeling in the characters that you never really get to see yourself.
VERDICT: A heartbreaking story and great performances make 'Maurice,' a worthy watch, but the wordy script and James Ivory's mechanical direction leaves little room for genuine emotional engagement.