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Dreaming of Joseph Lees

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Even with her eyes open, she never stopped...

A feverish drama of passion, taboos and betrayal with a macabre psychological twist, the story follows the sensuous Eva (Samantha Morton) who breaks all the rules after her own heart is broken.

Set against the staid bedrooms of late 1950s rural England, Eva lusts after the adventurous and worldly geologist Joseph Lees (Rupert Graves), whom she has known all her life. But on an excursion in Italy to excavate exotic stones, he was badly wounded in an accident and leaving Eva even more drawn to him. As Joseph retreats from society, Eva retreats into her own charged memories of Joseph.

But now, as the romantically inclined farmer Harry Flyte (Lee Ross) begins to court her, Eva is about to give into her deepest and darkest desires. Eva does not love Harry but she does find him alluring. Hoping to win her affections, Harry takes up boxing, taking blows in the ring just for her. Eva wants him, but she also wants to keep her options open, so she does something utterly provocative for her times: she moves in, unwed. Yet, the closer she gets to Harry, the more her private fantasies of Joseph Lees surface.

When Joseph re-enters her life, the undeniable electricity between them ignites and Eva's feelings are as fierce and as fervent as anything she has fantasised about. But between them is the knowledge of Harry back on the farm. As Eva's loyalties shift, the desperate and unstable Harry careens out of control, with wildly unpredictable results.

Also starring Miriam Margolyes as Signora Caldoni, Nicholas Woodeson as Mr Dian, Felix Billson as Robert, Lauren Richardson as Janie, Frank Finlay as father, Vernon Dobtcheff as the Italian doctor, Holly Baird as Maria, Fred Douglas as Danny and Margaret John as Aunt Margaret. Written by Catherine Linstrum, directed by Eric Styles.

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Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report


Eva is given the choice between sheer bliss and mere existence. I was offered that very choice the afternoon of the same day that I watched Dreaming of Joseph Lees. More the fool me, for I chose the mundaneity of existence over the possibility of having the greatest dream of all come true: true love. I am neither proud nor happy to have made such an idiotic choice even if it did make the film resonate with my life. It was, is and will always be the wrong decision.

Samantha Morton's performance controls the flow of this flick from innocent virgin to sensuous woman. She is the archetypal 50s English girl and could do a great impression of the young Queen Elizabeth II. Lee Ross is as passionate an Englishman as an Englishman can be - his ancestors colonised the world and went out in the midday sun. Rupert Graves is a tragic figure set up on a romantic pedestal from which he is romantic enough not to fall. Together they create a triangle of immense proportion that threatens to tumble down on top of them and everyone around them.

Watching Eva's vacillation between girlish adoration and womanly fascination is a study in the vagaries of the heart and the essential cruelty that is life. There are no guarantees where love is concerned, no matter who you love, no matter how you love. And no matter whether you allow yourself to love.

Dreaming of Joseph Lees is tragedy tempered by a hard won joy that leaves no-one unscarred. It's great to watch on film but it's hell to live.

Security censorship classification

M (Adult themes, sexual references)

Surveillance time

88 minutes (1:28 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 22 November 2000

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