Movie Review of James Ivory’s Maurice
Maurice is a 1987 romantic drama adapted from E.M. Forester’s titular novel. The film follows the lives of two gay Cambridge students, Maurice Hall (James Wilby) and Clive Durham (Hugh Grant), as they fall in love. As their relationship develops over time, feeling the pressure of compulsory heterosexuality from British society, Clive decides to end his physical relationship with Maurice so that he can marry a woman. The former lovers remain close as Maurice frequents Clive’s family estate. It is here that Maurice is introduced to their gamekeeper, Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves), and the two men quickly become intimate. Following their encounter, Maurice mistakes a letter from Alec as a ploy to blackmail him based on his homosexuality. Eventually, Maurice realizes his misunderstanding and reunites with Alec. Before Maurice and Alec pledge their commitment to one another, Maurice takes it upon himself to tell Clive of his love for Alec. The film concludes with a flashback of Clive thinking about the pleasant memories he shared with Maurice. The actors are believable in their roles stemming from their onscreen chemistry. The movie is visually alluring with picturesque shots of the English countryside, which is heightened by the classical score by Richard Robbins.
In particular, Maurice stands out for its portrayal of the gay experience in that the film acknowledges the hardships for gay men during the early 20th century. But at the same time, the gay characters still have a promising existence on the horizon. Early on, Maurice is told that the act of procreation is only between a man and his wife. This notion consumes him to such a degree that he voluntarily undergoes hypnosis in an effort to cure his homosexuality. Maurice’s fear only grows after he bears witness to the prosecution and subsequent imprisonment of a university classmate for homosexual acts. It is critical to the note that this period piece is set after the trial of famed writer and intellectual Oscar Wilde—a trial that exposed the gay underground to people worldwide. As Maurice struggles to name the conflict with his identity, he proceeds to refer to himself as “the Oscar Wilde sort” (1:15:57). In doing so, Maurice demonstrates that Wilde’s plight continues to linger in the minds of those living in the Edwardian era.
On a similar line of thought, LGBTQ+ viewers can identity with Maurice’s struggle to fit into society. Apart from his sexuality, Maurice is unconventional in his gender presentation and his lack of religious convictions. He tries to bolster his masculine image by way of growing a mustache in addition to taking a job as a boxing instructor before realizing he needs to be his authentic self. To that end, he stops his treatment for his homosexuality, is able to separate himself from his family’s religion and comes clean to Clive about his relationship with Alec in the pursuit of a more fulfilling life. While Maurice isn’t able to be completely out of the closet due to the risks at that time, he is on the journey to embracing his true self. Overall, Maurice provides a historical view of an early gay love story that acts as a reflection of the progress that has and will need to continue to be made for the LGBTQ+ community.
Maurice has a running time of 2 hours 20 minutes and is rated R. As of June 12th, 2023, it is available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, and Vudu.
Being able to live one’s authentic self is still a struggle many people in our community face, if you are looking for support and someone to talk about your own journey, you are very welcome to reach out to us at the LGBT National Help Center through our support hotlines listed below.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
LGBT National Coming Out Support Hotline: 1-888-688-5428 (1-888-OUT-LGBT)
LGBT National Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-7743 (1-800-246-PRIDE)
LGBT National Senior Hotline: 1-888-234-7243
You can also reach out online at www.LGBThotline.org/chat