Ivory, James, Callow, Simon, Elliott, Denholm, Grant, Hugh, Graves, Rupert, Kingsley, Ben, Wilby, James
- Duffin, Jacalyn
- Date of entry: Dec-31-1997
- Last revised: Aug-31-2006
Young Maurice Hall (James Wilby) is instructed in the facts of life by his well-intentioned teacher (Simon Callow), who warns the fatherless child never to speak of it to his mother or sisters. The boy says that he will never marry; the teacher promises that he will.
Years later, Maurice is at Cambridge, silent, prudish, inexperienced, adhering to his teacher’s wisdom, until he finds himself falling in love with the young aristocrat, Clive Durham (Hugh Grant). When they realize that their affection is mutual, Maurice loses direction as a scholar, skips classes and chapel. He is "sent down" with no hope of return unless he apologizes, which he refuses to do. For his part, Clive acknowledges the powerful sexual feelings, but will not act on them, conscious of the ruin that will befall him and his family if the relations are discovered. He hopes for a life managing his family estate and a career in politics. Platonic love between men is best, he says.
Middle-class Maurice goes into banking and earns a respectable living without a degree. Clive completes his studies and assumes the family estate, but when he decides to marry a woman whom he met in Greece, Maurice is devastated at his own loss and at the monstrous lie that Clive is willing to live.
Perhaps, Maurice wonders, the "love that dare not speak its name" is a disease. He seeks medical advice from the old family friend Dr. Barry (Denholm Elliott) who misunderstands his problem as venereal infection, which he cheerfully offers to treat; however, when Maurice bravely persists by confessing his unnatural longings--on which he still has yet to act--the doctor responds with anger and revulsion. Maurice then consults a sympathetic hypnotist (Ben Kingsley) who tries to cure him; finding the patient resistant, he suggests emigration to a country more accepting of his "kind."
A frequent guest in the strange Durham household, Maurice likes Clive’s vapid wife, sensing without certainty that the marriage is celibate. He falls in love with their gamekeeper, Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves), a deeply intelligent rustic, bound to quit domestic service and Old England for Argentina. Smitten with passion, they conduct a one-night affair. Simultaneously, however, they are wracked with fear: Maurice fully expects Alec to blackmail him; Alec fully expects Maurice to reject him for not being a gentleman. Society makes it nearly impossible for them to trust each other.
Maurice confronts Clive to say goodbye, choosing identity over social approbation, education, wealth, and privilege.
DVD Merchant Ivory Collection, The Criterion Collection, Home Vision Entertainment