I have a soft spot for Merchant Ivory films (especially Howard's End) so I decided to bump Maurice up on the Netflix queue. I really wasn't sure what to expect beyond a standard MI historical film....with naked men. I will also throw in the caveat that I haven't read Maurice by E.M. Forster; I've read A Room with a View and Howard's End, so I am used to Forster's style, and I do know Forster wrote Maurice pre-WWI but it was never published until the 1970s due to the subject matter.
So I was expecting a love story (-ish) about a homosexual relationship that for very obvious reasons must be repressed (because you can get arrested for being a homosexual at that time in Great Britain). Which is exactly what Maurice is - a film about a forbidden relationship and the protagonists are both male. It is a very lovely film and all the men are beautifully appointed as to styling which really does lend to the feminized/cloistered college atmosphere where Maurice (James Wilby, who I love in Gosford Park) and Clive (Hugh Grant, in his first major film role) meet. The relationship between Maurice and Clive is very tender and the parts are very well-played by the actors; the pain and misunderstanding between the couple that occurs when they realize they must act more "straight" is almost palpable. It did get a little uncomfortable for me toward the end of the film when Maurice begins a relationship with the gamekeeper at Clive's estate; it's a little mismatched as far as age, education, and class so it does seem that Maurice, who really can't supress his sexual orientation the same way Clive can, takes advantage of the gamekeeper. So it's a little dirty-old-man and teenager, which is a bit icky whatever the genders of the couple.
I really liked Maurice - I must read the book now.