The Happy Prince

Out Now On-Demand

Rupert Everett's directorial debut chronicles an ailing Oscar Wilde's last days while exiled in France. As Oscar lies on his death bed, the past comes flooding back to him, transporting him to other times and places. Everett stars alongside Colin Firth and Emily Watson.

Trailers

Directed by

Written by

Drama, True Story & Biography, Historical

105mins

Rating: M Offensive language, nudity, drug use & sexual references

English, Italian and French with English subtitles

Germany, Belgium, UK, Italy

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple”—this quote from one of Victorian playwright Oscar Wilde’s famous comedies could perhaps be applied in a melancholic sense to this complex biopic examining Wilde’s final years post release from Reading Gaol for “gross indecencies with men” and after his exile to Europe. Writer, director, producer and playing Wilde himself, quadruple threat Rupert Everett is a tour de force in his sympathetic and compelling passion project, which studies Wilde’s peripatetic, often penniless existence after the very public shaming and consequent imprisonment of the witty, magnetic playwright and social fixture.

The Happy Prince is Everett’s first foray into directing, and being so involved on all levels must have required superhuman amounts of energy. Thankfully overindulgence in the details suits the visuals, unhurried pace and vices of the main character, as we flash back and forth connecting the narrative and observing Wilde’s hedonistic and relatively swift physical decline. Wilde’s twilight story is enhanced by Everett’s clear empathy with his subject matter, and weaving the telling of his eponymous sad children’s tale (about a compassionate gilded statue who is slowly stripped of his gold by a humble swallow to alleviate human hardship) throughout as Wilde tells it to a pair of street urchins.

The alchemy of Wilde’s blend of intelligent humour, wit and debauchery garnered him loyal supporters (among liberals) everywhere, but none more so than friends and enablers Reggie Turner (Colin Firth), and the mournfully devoted Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas), his literary executor and occasional lover, who prop him up constantly. Even his suffering, humiliated wife Constance (Emily Watson), with conditions attached, pays him a small allowance and considers forgiveness. Yet the heart wants what it wants, and in Wilde’s case it is the forbidden love of the gorgeous, dirty, shallow Lord Alfred Douglas “Bosie” (played lushly by Colin Morgan), to his eventual detriment and everybody else’s dismay.

Beautifully shot, this is an enlightening insight into the late Victorian persecution of the paradoxically charming, intelligent, pleasure seeking subversive, who managed, despite moral outrage, to always be himself. To quote Oscar: “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.”

Hollywood Reporter

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An absorbing but shapeless bio-drama that never gains much steam.

Little White Lies

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A poignant story that is almost eclipsed by the egoistic frolics of its creator.

The Guardian

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This film is a deeply felt, tremendously acted tribute to courage.

The Telegraph (UK)

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There are real virtues to its comparative lack of polish: this story gains a seamy power from the rough edges, the exploratory style, even the slightly unstable editing.

The Times (UK)

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It's a fearless, committed, and award-worthy turn, and emblematic of a first-time film-maker at his most expressive and most affecting.

TimeOut (London)

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As a director, Everett is sometimes heavy-handed, but the performances, and the undeniable injustice of Wilde's ordeal, make for a tragedy worthy of its drama-loving subject.

Variety (USA)

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As a final, permanent showcase for a role Everett was born to play, then, "The Happy Prince" does the job.

Vulture

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The Happy Prince proves that a film can be both bleak and warm-spirited, as befits its mighty subject.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

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It's an interesting, more sober counterpoint to 1997's Stephen Fry starring Wilde, but Happy Prince feels like more of a slog than it should be.

NZ Herald (Tom Augustine)

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With The Happy Prince, Everett has revealed himself to be one to watch behind the camera, as well as in front of it.

A masterpiece

A seemless narrative of the life of Oscar Wilde. I love that it was poetically intervowen to the narrative of a popular fairy tale - The Happy Prince. This was a directorial masterpiece debut from Rupert Everret. The fact that he also wrote the screenplay and portrayed Oscar Wilde is brilliant.


A story worth the telling.

In 2017 Wilde and 75,000 other men were 'pardoned' for the crime of homosexuality. Clearly they should have been apologised to rather than pardoned, but nevertheless Rupert Everett felt the time was right to tell this story (again) of the foolish love lorn Wilde and his selfish lover Bosie. Overall a fascinating and relevant tale but I couldn't help feeling that Everett was not quite right for Wilde who he plays as a an oafish character rather than an acclaimed writer with such sensitive feeling for the English language. While other men were living secret lives Wilde may have thought that his great success as a writer would carry him through. It did not and as his life unravelled many tried to save him but ultimately his human frailty took him as it takes us all.

Worth seeing for the story and some wonderful minor performances.