The Happy Prince offers some interesting insight into the life of Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde towards the later days of life.
Oscar Wilde was an interesting character. He was also a victim of an unjust law in the United Kingdom. Wilde would formally be pardoned for his actions by England in 2017 but that didn’t change the past. Could his life have ended differently if the LGBTQ community were accepted for who they were? It is likely that he would have avoided a two-year prison sentence. It speaks to how cruel the laws were at the time. Somebody could be LGBTQ but the law viewed it as a crime so they were imprisoned. In this way, it’s almost worse than being sent to conversion therapy!
Wilde was sent to prison at the peak of his fame. Make no mistake that he could have had a longer life if not for being sentenced to two years of hard labor. But enough about Wilde, let’s actually digest the film.
Actor Rupert Everett uses his directorial debut to imagine how Wilde’s life came to a tragic end. What is known is that the writer died at 46 years old as a broke man living in Paris. Everett’s depiction includes some of the key players: Reggie Turner (Colin Firth), Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Colin Morgan), Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas), and Wilde’s wife, Constance (Emily Watson). Constance has less of a role to play but appears in flashbacks and hallucinations.
The film is mostly told through flashbacks while Wilde lays in bed. Wilde thinks about his wife, Constance, who he divorced some two years earlier. There’s his relationship with Bosie–the one whose father paved the way for Wilde’s imprisonment. Ross was loyal to Oscar in so many ways and yet he ultimately could not save him. Whether it’s in Naples or Paris, Oscar will tell stories to anyone who listens.
Flashbacks as a plot device can only do so much for a film. My biggest problem with the film wasn’t so much the flashbacks but how much of the film was being told in French. Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with subtitles but when you’re not as familiar with the language, it helps to know what exactly is being said. The problem in this instance was somebody’s head blocking those subtitles.
A passion project for Rupert Everett, The Happy Prince is his tribute to the late writer, Oscar Wilde.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Rupert Everett
CAST: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, and Emily Watson