Release Date: 1996
US Release Date: 9/26/97 (limited)
Intimate Relations is set in 1950s England, and stars Julie Walters as Marjorie Beasley, a grandmother and wife of a one-legged WWI veteran. Ostensibly looking for a little bit of extra income, she decides to let out one of their extra rooms to a lodger, much to the chagrin of her husband, Stanley.
Enter Harold Guppy (played by Rupert Graves), a good-looking young man of around 30 years of age, who has come into town hoping to receive some hospitality from his long-lost brother. His brother's wife, however, is just about to give birth, and tells Harold to look for lodgings elsewhere, as she believes Harold will be a bad influence on her child.
Sure enough, Harold ends up at Mrs. Beasley's doorstep, who eagerly welcomes Harold into her house, insisting that he call her "Mum". Mrs. Beasley, who is disgusted by her one-legged spouse to the point that they even keep separate bedrooms, soon finds herself being attracted to Harold, and eventually seduces him. This leads to Mum and the 30 year old lodger embarking on a lengthy affair that threatens to tear the Beasley family apart. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, the movie claims to be based on real events.
The biggest problem which threatens to come between the happy couple isn't the twenty or thirty year age difference, or even the not-so-oblivious Mr. Beasley, but rather the Beasleys' younger daughter, Joyce, who has also come to fancy Harold. Like her mother, the 13 year old Joyce also turns out to be quite devious, and hides in Harold's bed to catch him and her mother as they are conducting their affair. Joyce threatens to tell Stanley about the affair unless she is allowed to join them. Mum is surprisingly amenable to the idea, and in exchange for Joyce's silence, allows her to lie in bed with them, as long as she refrains from taking part in any of the sexual activities.
In the weeks that follow, the tension between Joyce and her mother in their rivalry over Harold's affections begins to manifest itself in disturbing ways. In one example, Joyce's best friend leaves the Beasley house in tears after Joyce has tried to molest her. In another, Joyce blackmails Harold into taking her for a bike ride and staying overnight with her in a secluded hotel. When they return, Mum is enraged, and accuses Harold of trying to sexually abuse her daughter. Harold becomes furious at her accusations, and decides that he's had more than enough of both of them.
Harold leaves the Beasley household and enlists in the army, hoping to start a new life for himself. Without the twisted Beasleys around, Harold is able to flourish, finding himself a fiancee, and slowly winning the approval of his brother's wife. But Marjorie Beasley is not yet through with Harold, and innundates him with letters begging him to return home. Harold staunchly refuses, until Mrs. Beasley stoops to blackmail, saying that she will go to the police and tell them that he abused Joyce unless he comes back to her. Blowing off his family and his fiancee, Harold immediately returns to the Beasley house, where he and Mum continue their adulterous relationship.
But the tensions within the Beasley family remain, and are in fact multiplied a hundredfold. On a family outing one day, Joyce brings along a knife and attempts to kill her mother with it. By the end of the outing, at least one of them is dead, although in the interests of not giving away the entire movie, I'm not going to say who it is (all the information up to this point could be gleaned, although in an admittedly less detailed version, from the back of the box, so it's not really a spoiler).
Intimate Relations is an absorbing movie that goes on for just a bit too long. While all three lead actors are perfectly cast, the script is just a little too repetitive, although good overall. All three main characters are excellently scripted and portrayed, with Marjorie's outward appearance of being a perfect and virtuous woman contrasting perfectly with the sex-starved grandmother persona that she uses to lure Harold into bed with her. Harold, meanwhile, is thoroughly portrayed as a victim, who easily earns the viewer's empathy. Joyce is clearly the most complicated of the characters, and she is brilliantly interpreted by newcomer Laura Sadler, who perfectly blends innocence with pubescent smut. Overall, Intimate Relations is a good movie, definitely worth 2 hours of anyone's time.
Selected Cast and CrewBibliography:
Julie Walters .... Marjorie Beasley
Rupert Graves .... Harold Guppy
Matthew Walker .... Stanley Beasley
Laura Sadler .... Joyce Beasley
Holly Aird .... Deirdre
Les Dennis .... Maurice Guppy
Liz McKechnie .... Iris Guppy
James Aiden .... George
Michael Bertenshaw .... Mr. Pugh
Candace Hallinan .... Pauline
Amanda Holden .... Pamela
Written and Directed by Philip Goodhew