Complete A-Z list

Dorian Gray


Stars: Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Ben Chaplin, Rebecca Hall, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Douglas Henshall, Emilia Fox, Fiona Shaw, Johnny Harris, Maryam d'Abo, Jo Woodcock, Caroline Goodall

Director: Oliver Parker

A mix of stylish settings and Wildean epigrams with elements from soft-porn UK films of the 1970s and Hammer horror, this is a rather lengthy but occasionally striking version of Oscar Wilde's Gothic chiller about a young Victorian (Barnes) who, harshly brought up by his grandfather, returns to his ancestral home an innocent, but is soon corrupted by family 'friend' Henry Wotton (Firth), who takes him to upmarket bars and plush brothels, introducing him to opium and sado-masochism.

Dorian falls for Sybil, an actress (the piquant Hurd-Wood), but Henry keeps him firmly off the straight and narrow - 'The one charm of marriage,' he tells Dorian, 'is that it makes deception an absolute necessity' - and a pregnant Sybil throws herself in the river, even as Dorian throws himself into a life of depravity.

Homosexual artist Basil (Chaplin) paints a wonderful portrait of Dorian, but the picture is cursed and, while Dorian remains forever young and beautiful, his portrait, now hidden in the attic, assimilates all his sins, sores and scars, oozing pus, maggots and blood until it eventually comes to resemble Argus Filch from the Harry Potter films.

Barnes tries hard in the leading role and certainly has the flawless prettiness even if he lacks the cruel edge the part demands. Firth, however, is ideally cast in the old George Sanders role (from the 1945 original).

"My life,' gasps Dorian at the end, ' has been a monstrous corruption.' Alas, the monsters and corruption are rendered with too little subtlety to make this new Dorian Gray chill its audience to the bone.

David Quinlan

UK 2009. UK Distributor: Momentum. Technicolor.
112 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 0.

Review date: 08 Sep 2009