Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Maurice (1987)

Courtesy of Merchant Ivory Productions Ltd

Main image of Maurice (1987)
DirectorJames Ivory
Production CompanyMerchant Ivory Productions, Cinecom Pictures, Film Four International, Maurice Productions
ProducerIsmail Merchant
ScreenplayKit Hesketh-Harvey
 James Ivory
Original novelE.M.Forster
PhotographyPierre Lhomme
MusicRichard Robbins

Cast: James Wilby (Maurice), Hugh Grant (Clive Durham), Rupert Graves (Alec Scudder), Denholm Elliott (Dr Barry), Simon Callow (Mr Ducie)

Show full cast and credits

Maurice and Clive fall in love while studying at Cambridge University. Clive ends the relationship when he marries and enters public life. Maurice's attempts to change his sexual orientation fail as he succumbs to the attentions of a young gamekeeper.

Show full synopsis

The second in a trio of Merchant-Ivory adaptations of E.M. Foster novels, Maurice (d. James Ivory, 1987) remains true to the author's semi-autobiographical text, which was unpublished until after his death in 1971.

Protagonist Maurice Hall (James Wilby) embarks on a journey of self-discovery when he meets and falls in love with Clive Durham (Hugh Grant) while studying at Cambridge University. Maurice is somewhat awkward - an outsider compared to the charming, self-assured object of his affections. As the film progresses, the two characters take opposite routes. Maurice's depth of character strengthens, while Clive's dissolves as he conforms to societal norms.

Ivory explores similar themes around repression, class, society and the possibility of freedom in films such as The Bostonians (1984), A Room With A View (1985), Mr & Mrs Bridge (1990) and The Remains of the Day (1993).

In Maurice, Ivory juxtaposes darkness and light to represent the characters' outward struggles and inner lives. Scenes inside Cambridge are moody, close and oppressive. Outdoors, the characters are no longer contrived and stifled. When the two worlds collide, one or another character is inevitably looking out of (or climbing in through) a window.

Maurice is a 'heritage' film of the sort whose resurgence began in the 1980s and continues today. True to form, the story progresses at a leisurely pace, and the film's sweeping Cambridge exteriors, country house interiors and perpetual costume changes are as pivotal as the performances of Wilby and Grant, et al.

Wilby gives the character of Maurice a quiet intensity. As Clive, Grant is at once affable and unbearable. Risley, whose arrest for acts of indecency mark the dramatic turn in the film, is played by Mark Tandy. The strong supporting cast includes quintessential Denholm Elliot (Dr Barry), Rupert Graves (Alec Scudder), Simon Callow (Mr Ducie), and Ben Kingsley (Lasker-Jones).

Maurice was shot on location at Kings College. Interiors scenes at Clive's Penderleigh property were shot at Wilbury Park in Wilshire. Merchant Ivory revisited Wilbury Park for the country house scenes in The Remains of the Day. The film's atmospheric score won accolades for composer Richard Robbins.

Vanessa McQuarrie

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Production stills
Bonham Carter, Helena (1966-)
Callow, Simon (1949-)
Elliott, Denholm (1922-1992)
Foster, Barry (1927-2002)
Grant, Hugh (1960-)
Graves, Rupert (1963-)
Ivory, James (1928-)
Kingsley, Sir Ben (1942-)
Merchant, Ismail (1936-2005)
Whitelaw, Billie (1932-)
Channel 4 and Film
Literary Adaptation