Overlooked & Underseen: Another Country (1984)
My second entry for Pride Month also involves England, but we’re going backward about 30 years from when Victim took place. The setting? A 1930s public school in the UK with actors like Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, and Cary Elwes. Yes, you’re right. A complete dream cast and movie for me. Goodness knows I love them English men. All three were definitely swoon-worthy in 1984, as well as amazing actors, as you’ll find out when you watch the movie yourself.
Another Country, based on the play by Julian Mitchell (who also wrote the screenplay), follows Guy Bennett (Rupert Everett) as he negotiates his way through one year of public school as an openly gay man. Bennett is friends with Tommy Judd (Colin Firth) who himself is having to deal with life at school being a Marxist. Bennett falls in love with fellow student James Harcourt (Cary Elwes). A scandal hits the school with the death of a student so the faculty and upper-level students (prefects) running the school do everything in their power to avoid the scandal going public. This leads to cracking down on any student engaging in “inappropriate” behavior, making life even more repressive for Bennett because he isn’t shy about letting people know he is gay nor about his love for Harcourt. Things are brought to a head for Bennett but he won’t save himself because doing so will out Harcourt. It is in this moment that he makes a life-altering decision for himself and, ultimately, his country.
Another Country doesn’t only take on what it was like to be gay in Britain in the late 1930s, but it also portrays the absolute brutality that went on in public school. Boys were sent away to live in these schools where they are forced to do manual labor for the older boys. In the movie, we see the paces one of the young boys are put through. Bennett made the decision to come out but most boys kept their sexuality hidden as best they could. Boys getting together with each other, whether out of necessity to relieve sexual frustration or because they had feelings with one another, seem to be a common thing. At one point, Bennett is able to escape punishment because, as he had some sort of sexual relations with some of the students trying to dole out a cane whipping, he was able to blackmail them into leaving him alone.
Rupert Everett is the stand out here. His portrayal of Bennett is both fierce and heartbreaking at the same time. His delicate beauty belies the strength he has trying to fight for his place at the school and for his love of Harcourt. Both Elwes and Firth are wonderful in their roles, too. Firth, especially, as the Marxist friend of Everett, is so angry at everyone and everything. He tries to help Bennett as best he can but, ultimately, he is only able to do so much for him because Bennett refuses to help himself.
Another Country is an absolutely gorgeous film. Oscar-winning cinematographer (Mississippi Burning) Peter Biziou makes the most of both the locations and the actors. The beauty of the film flies in the face of the ugliness happening at the school. The direction from Kanievska, along with the music from Michael Storey and Biziou’s photography, make Another Country something special.
I’ve seen this movie several times and never have I seen it look as good as it did during this latest viewing via FilmStruck as part of their Pride Month collection. There are several films there worthy of your attention. Next week, I will close out Pride Month with another lesser known selection that is a must see.