Maurice (1987) - Rotten Tomatoes


Maurice (1987)



Critic Consensus: Maurice sensitively explores the ramifications of forbidden desire with a powerful love story brought to life by the outstanding efforts of a talented cast.

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Set against the stifling conformity of pre-World War I English society, E.M. Forster's Maurice is a story of coming to terms with one's sexuality and identity in the face of disapproval and misunderstanding. Maurice Hall and Clive Durham find themselves falling in love at Cambridge. In a time when homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment, the two must keep their feelings for one another a complete secret. After a friend is arrested and disgraced for "the unspeakable vice of the Greeks," Clive abandons his forbidden love and marries a young woman. Maurice, however, struggles with his identity and self-confidence, seeking the help of a hypnotist to rid himself of his undeniable urges. But while staying with Clive and his shallow wife, Anne, Maurice is seduced by the affectionate and yearning servant Alec Scudder, an event that brings about profound changes in Maurice's life and outlook.

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James Wilby
as Maurice Hall
Hugh Grant
as Clive Durham
Rupert Graves
as Alec Scudder
Denholm Elliott
as Dr. Barry
Simon Callow
as Mr. Ducie
Billie Whitelaw
as Mrs. Hall
Ben Kingsley
as Lasker-Jones
Judy Parfitt
as Mrs. Durham
Phoebe Nicholls
as Anne Durham
Mark Tandy
as Risley
Kitty Aldridge
as Kitty Hall
Barry Foster
as Dean Cornwalis
Peter Eyre
as Mr. Borenius
Catherine Rabett
as Pippa Durham
Orlando Wells
as Young Maurice
Helena Bonham Carter
as Young Lady at Cricket Match
Mark Payton
as Chapman
Gerald McArthur
as Undergraduate
Miles Richarson
as Undergraduate
Maria Britneva
as Mrs. Sheepshanks
Mathew Sim
as Fetherstonhaugh
Alan Foss
as Old Man at Train
Philip Fox
as Dr. Jowitt
Olwen Griffiths
as Mrs. Scudder
Chris Hunter
as Fred Scudder
Breffni McKenna
as Guardsman
Matthew Sim
as Fetherstonhaugh
Andrew St. Clair
as Undergraduate
Alan Whybrow
as Mr. Scudder
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Critic Reviews for Maurice

All Critics (30) | Top Critics (10)

We see Maurice's agony and pain, and in fact, empathize with it, but that is largely our own doing It takes imagination.

August 16, 2021 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

A triumph of the Merchant Ivory aesthetic. The cast are gorgeous. The passion is polite. The conclusion is a little surprising. Well worth reviving.

July 31, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

This elegant, heart-rending romance is now ripe for the reclaiming as a gay landmark.

July 26, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Maurice is a candid, lucid, passionate film.

July 26, 2018 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

A sumptuous film, whose beauty and importance has only increased with age. The very definition of a must-see.

July 25, 2018 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

With compassion, humor and detachment, James Ivory's superb film of E.M. Forster's "Maurice" takes us into the complacent, fixed world of Britain's privileged classes in the years immediately before World War I.

June 1, 2017 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Maurice


So bored. A story of a young man trying to understand his sexuality, extremely boring but otherwise it has great costumes and a young Hugh Grant.

Sylvester Kuo
Sylvester Kuo

Super Reviewer


James Ivory was so well-known for outrageously British and ultimately somewhat inconsequential period dramas, so I wouldn't be too surprised if he made a biopic about that one Bishop of London of the very late 1100s who no one really remembers because of his not doing much interesting, but thankfully, there's a whole lot more juice to the story in this film, "Britback Mountain". Oh yeah, I don't know what the bigger stretch is: Hugh Grant being in a super British period drama early on in his career or James Wilby playing gay. I know Wilby isn't really gay, but he's really big into theatre and TV, both of which are ruled by the gays, unless, of course, those two entertainment formats really are as different as they say in the UK. I only have BBC America to work with over here, and all they have are documentaries and reality shows that I'd imagine are even more boring than their American brethren, dramas I never have time for, comedies that are too weakly filmed for me to be all that invested, way too many American films, and some stuff by the very fabulous Graham Norton that I actually do watch here and there, so as far as I know, the Middle Eastern visitors haven't driven the gays out of UK entertainment yet. Either way, the point is that James Wilby's career ended up being not as strong as Hugh Grant's, which is pretty depressing, especially when you consider that Wilby is the leading title character in this film. Well, in all fairness, this was a particularly dirt-cheap Merchant Ivory period piece, and it still kind of underperformed at the box office, but hey, at least the critics liked it, and that really does count in the UK, while in the US, you need to either have plenty of money or be black, gay, Hispanic, or something else that the liberals deem marketable in order to meet some degree of success in the entertainment industry. As gay as this film is, it's too white to appeal to modern American mainstream audiences, and it doesn't help that, by its own right, the flick has plenty of problems. I joked about how James Ivory has a taste for somewhat inconsequential dramas, but quite frankly, as juicy as this film is in plenty of areas, there's not much to this plot, whose characters are often bland, and whose situations are a bit too minimalist for their own good, as well as kind of derivative in some ways. On top of there being not much to this plot, there's only so much that's refreshing about this plot, which meanders its way down a familiar path, and one that makes the meandering all the more severe by being pretty lengthy. With all of my talk about how minimalist this subject matter is in plenty of areas, the final product comes out running a, for it, whopping 140 minutes, and while such lengthiness is backed by thoughtful material enough to not be grating, it is simply unnecessary, being much too often achieved through fat around the edges that, before you know it, gets to be repetitious, maybe even unfocused. The film takes too long to tell a thin story, and that, as you can probably imagine, leads to aimlessness, for although there are enough layers to the characters who drive this drama for you to get a fair sense of progression, it's hard to see where storytelling is heading, regardless of the conventionalism to this narrative, and that would be perfectly fine and all if director James Ivory, as atmospheric storyteller, didn't keep faithful to the meandering of his and Kit-Hesketh-Harvey's written storytelling. Ivory may be an American man, but good golly, Miss Molly, he is quite the British filmmaker, and he has a tendency to make good and sure that you don't forget it by stuffing storytelling up with bland dryness, something that can, of course, be found here, where the thoughtfulness in Ivory's storytelling has its dramatically effective moments, but generally simply meditates on the thinness of this subject matter's intrigue, leaving blandness to ensue, often in the form of dullness, and perhaps even more often with a certain sense of stuffiness that makes this drama to feel self-congratulatory, in spite of its shortcomings. I can't say that I blame this film for feel proud of itself, because there are plenty of high points in this film, so much so that the final product almost overcomes its shortcomings and stands a truly rewarding, but sadly, the natural thinness to this subject matter is too great to ignore, especially when backed by a meandering story structure and bland atmosphere that slow momentum down to a crawl. Still, a crawl is some form of progression, and sure enough, while this film leaves much to be desired, it perseveres as decent, with commendable moments, even in production value. Working with a budget that is, in USD, only $2.6 million, art directors Peter James and Brian Savegar don't have a whole lot of opportunities to flesh out this period piece's look, thus the final product doesn't exactly excel at production value, but it does impress, with production designer Brian Ackland-Snow and costume designers Jenny Beavan, John Bright and William Pierce being thoughtful enough in their money spending to restore early 20th century England in a fashion that, while minimalist, is both attractive and convincing enough to immerse you. There's a tastefulness to this film's production value that impresses, even if the designs themselves aren't all that outstanding, but if there is something that is just as, if not more tasteful, as well as consistently outstanding, then it is this film's classical soundtrack, whose original touches are courtesy Richard Robbins, and which is, of course, inconsistently used in this often quiet art piece, yet proves to be ultimately very much worthy of patience, being rich with the brilliant and soulful musicality that is distinctly classical, as well as complimentary to both the entertainment value and resonance of this film. If there is a moving moment in this film, then it most likely cannot stand with as much sturdiness as it does without the support of this excellent, thoroughly tasteful soundtrack, which captures much heart when it is, in fact, played up, as surely as the production value of the film captures this film's setting, thus leaving you with an artistically proficient film that can, of course, not be entirely powered by its artistic value. At the core of this prettied up project is substance that is pretty thin in plenty of places, but still worthy, as reflected by undeniable highlights in Kit-Hesketh-Harvey's and James Ivory's undercookd and meandering script, whose wit is often effectively charming, if not amusing, and whose characterization is just fleshed out enough for you to get a feel for the characters and their struggles. There's enough heart to this film's writing for you to catch glimpses at relatively considerable potential for compellingness, made all that clearer by moments in which a directing Ivory's tender and thoughtful meditations prove to be effective, so even though there are plenty of disengaging areas to this film, when the hits come, they're pretty commendable, though perhaps mostly because they're typically anchored by strong lead performances. If there is any meat to this character drama, then it is mostly likely found within the acting material for leads James Wilby and Hugh Grant, both of whom were newcomers at the time and could have fallen short, but really deliver, not just on effective chemistry, but by their own individual rights, with Grant being convincing as a questioning homosexual trying to run away from his true identity, while Wilby compels, often with strong emotional power, in his fearless portrayal of a gay man who fears, not only that his secret may be revealed, but that he will lose the man he holds so very dear. The commitment that Wilby and Grant grace their performances with is nothing short of compelling, and considering that this is a character drama, such compellingness goes a particularly long way, not exactly to where the final product triumphs over underwhelmingness, but decidedly to where the acting stands alongside the inspired moments in storytelling as a key factor in bringing the final product to a generally pretty engaging level. Bottom line, the film's story concept is familiar and bland in some spots, and much too thin in plenty of spots, and you have plenty of time to think about this, thanks to aimless dragging in storytelling that is made all the more noticeable by atmospheric dryness, thus making for a bland flick, but one that is not without plenty of high points, firmly established enough through clever art direction, an outstanding classical soundtrack, inspired areas in writing, tenderly effective areas in direction and compelling commitment to the performances and chemistry between leads James Wilby and Hugh Grant for James Ivory's "Maurice" to stand as an improvable, but ultimately endearing drama about a struggle to keep a forbidden romance secret, yet alive. 2.75/5 - Decent

Cameron Johnson
Cameron Johnson

Super Reviewer


Is being gay really this boring?

Christian C
Christian C

Super Reviewer

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