After a botched break-in at the artist Francis Bacon’s studio, the burgler, a young man called George Dyer (Craig), becomes both lover and muse to Bacon.
At the start Dyer seems to welcome the gifts that are offered to him; he is a little nonplussed and resentful, but goes with the flow so as to please Bacon, whom he seems to care for in his own way. We see Bacon’s attempts to assimilate the young Dyer into his social circle of friends, all of whom are completely messed up.
Over the course of the film, Bacon gains quite a reputation around the world – from New York to Paris, where his pictures are on display in the Grand Palais, and then London where he is being interviewed on television. However, it is clear that he is still unsatisfied and longs to sustain a personal relationship with someone.
Both Daniel Craig and Derek Jacobi give stellar performances for which they won Best Performance awards at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Jacobi embodies a character who seems to wants that physical contact and control over someone but once behind closed doors it’s another matter entirely. Whereas Craig’s portrayal of someone struggling with their own addictions ultimately leads to the destruction of the relationship between the two men. As things crumble, there seems to be no other way out for Dyer but to give in to his suicidal dreams and thoughts.
The story is told with a mix of narration by Bacon, interspersed with short scenes almost as if one were watching a play. What is clear is that Maybury has given this film a lot of thought, using inspiration from Daniel Farson’s authorised biography of Bacon to great effect, bringing light and shade to his vision, and using the talents of his cast to the fullest. Although not a film with a happy ending, it is certain to leave you with a sense of what life was like for likeminded souls with demons of their own, and with society watching their every move.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, we’re exploring our collective past through a season of exceptional British movies.