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Against the Law

UK, English, 83 mins

  • Director: Fergus O'Brien
  • Writer: Brian Fillis
  • Producer: Scott James Bassett

CGiii Comment

Okay...this film deeply divided our review sofa...

There are the good bits...Daniel Mays' performance.

There are the not-so good bits...the sparse-on-detail, loose-ended writing - who the hell was Iris?!? 

And, there are the [brilliant] bits that had no place in this film...the straight-to-camera testimonies of men who lived, lied, loved and suffered through those times. Their stories deserve a film of their own.

Rather than punctuating the film with these testimonies - the director ought to have thought hard and long about the flow of his film...our review sofa quibbled, these inserts/intrusions were seen as either a compliment to the narrative or as an interruption...however, we all agreed as to their emotional potency. And, many tears were duly shed...

Framing the film with these testimonies would have been an interesting option...hear the horror, see the horror...keeping that delightful end sequence of these elderly gentlemen showing...whatever life throws at you...life goes on. Shame about the accompanying song though - The Beta Band/Steve Mason's repetitive Dry the Rain - a sub-standard rip-off of Primal Scream's Movin' on Up - which would have been a far, far better song choice! Oooooh it could have been so joyous...life goes on...spitting in the face of the system that condemned them!

Perhaps, a song of that calibre was out of the price range...it has to be said, this production needed and deserved much more money thrown at it...in places, it looked like one of those old BBC plays...perhaps, that was the intention! We think not...more scrimping than letting the creative juices realise their full potential.

So...our sofa remains divided...a different director, a different writer, a bigger budget could have resulted in a far better film...but hey, that can be said about every single production that doesn't quite do it for you!

It's worth mentioning that this film has been made before - in 2007, Patrick Reams gave us A Very British Sex Scandal - same kind of structure with better writing - a better film!

Against the Law marks an anniversary...anniversaries are a cause to celebrate...

Stanley Underhill, 91: “It destroyed my personality. I couldn’t be who I was. So I had nothing.”

Food for thought...


The(ir) Blurb...

Against the Law is a timely and sensitive biopic based on Peter Wildeblood’s bestseller which tells the story of his affair with a handsome serviceman he met in Piccadilly and the devastating consequences of their relationship. Wildeblood had been a celebrated and well-connected journalist on the Daily Express, with a range of acquaintances that included Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. He is played by Daniel Mays, in a beautifully nuanced performance that charts his journey from Fleet Street via public vilification to his imprisonment under the same legislation that sent Oscar Wilde to Reading Gaol. Mark Gatiss gives a chilling performance as a prison doctor charged with administering therapeutic measures to homosexuals acquiescing to the idea that they can be ‘changed’.

The importance of Peter Wildeblood’s case (jointly brought against him, Lord Montagu and Michael Pitt-Rivers) is that it brought the debate about homosexuality into the public domain. It led the way to the creation of the Wolfenden Committee on sexual law reform that eventually resulted in the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which changed the lives of thousands of gay men with its partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts. This film offers a profoundly moving portrait of what it meant to be gay in the 1950s, underlining the importance of understanding our recent history and the immense social and emotional burdens endured by generations of gay men.

Cast & Characters

Daniel Mays as Peter Wildeblood;
Richard Gadd as Eddie McNally;
Mark Gatiss as Doctor Landers;
Charlie Creed-Miles as Superintendent Jones;
Daniel Betts as Defence Rawlinson;
Claire Bond as Iris;
Steve Brunton as Prisoner;
Matthew Canny as John Reynolds;
Josh Collins as Michael Pitt-Rivers;
Richard Dillane as Prosecutor Roberts;
Mark Edel-Hunt as Lord Edward Montagu;
James Gaddas as Governor Cockayne;
Mark Holgate as Tony;
Ty Hurley as RAF Military Police;
Paul Keating as Fanny;
Cristian Lazar as Football Player

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