It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The first time Lytton Strachey saw Dora Carrington, he asked, "Who is that ravishing boy?" When he discovered she was a girl with a tomboy haircut, he was struck dumb; at their first meeting, conversation came to a complete stall, and in embarrassment he picked up a book and pretended to read. He was a homosexual in his mid-30s, dry, bearded, reserved. She was a painter, 15 years younger. Nothing could have been more out of character than for him suddenly to lean over and kiss her, while they were on a walk through the countryside.
But he did.
The opening scenes of "Carrington" try to explain the beginnings of one of the oddest romances of the Bloomsbury Group, that gathering of British geniuses, eccentrics and self-publicists that produced no romances that were not odd. In Christopher Hampton's film, Carrington (she hated the "Dora" and dropped it) visits Strachey's bedside with a scissors, to chop off his beard in retaliation for the kiss. But then, regarding his sleeping face, she undergoes a sudden transformation into love. Strachey awakens and sees her looming over him: "Have you brought me my breakfast?" Strachey (Jonathan Pryce) and Carrington (Emma Thompson) were in love, after their fashion, for 17 years, until his death, followed shortly by her own. During much of that time, they occupied Ham Spray House, in Berkshire, with a series of other lovers, some of them shared. Carrington eventually married Rex Partridge, who Strachey said should change his name to Ralph, which he did. In one scene, the three of them share the same bed, somewhat uneasily ("There are times when I feel like a character in a play by Moliere," Strachey said).
Although physical passion no doubt figured at some time, in some way, in all of their lives, they were so reserved about it that the movie leaves us wondering if they wouldn't really rather engage in repartee than sex. "Ah, semen!" says Strachey. "What is it about that ridiculous white secretion that pulls down the corners of an Englishman's mouth?" The movie's only sex scene is so discreet that we can only presume what is happening; during it, Strachey has the facial expression of a person being inoculated.