I've only seen Maurice once; I was in high school, and my best friend was struggling with coming out, thus making me watch every queer movie ever made (a surprising amount of which were Australian, but that's another story). We were 17, melodramatic, and filled to the gills with 19th-century, poet-shirted, tragically homo dandies (which led to a thankfully short-lived time when my friend was ordering clothes from International Male but that, too, is another story). And although I fell asleep during nearly all the films we watched that year, surprisingly, Maurice kept me awake.
Based on the supposedly semi-autobiographical book by E.M. Forster, Maurice (pronounced "Morris") follows two young men, Maurice (James Wilby) and Clive (Hugh Grant, pre-Divine Brown debacle), fall in love during their first years at Cambridge University. They have a sweet, first-love chemistry about them, with awkward kisses and glowing-cheeked conversations. Of course, since it's England in the early 1900s and the practice of homosexuality, "the forbidden love," is not only illegal, but a Sin against God, they must live with their passion in secret.
After graduation, Clive decides he's going to be a big, rich society man and marry this total bitch (played by Phoebe Nicholls), completely denying his queer factor and leaving sensitive, intelligent, attractive Maurice in the d-u-s-t. Maurice is heartbroken, and it's so sad, because they were so perfect together, and who cares about society and all its stupid rules? What is money and social glory when you can't even love who you want to love? Argh! Maurice was how I first learned that if anything's more depressing than an unrequited love story, it's a gay unrequited love story. Especially if it's made by Merchant-Ivory, with fairy tale-like, Edwardian palaces, technicolor green grass, and lots of atmospheric, British mist.
Maurice is the kind of film that makes you swoon, and despite its tragic plot, it's a very realistic sort of swooning. Though it's easy to get caught up in the romanticism of period films, Maurice is so elegantly written, you won't feel like a chump if you get teary-eyed at the end of the movie. Alternately, it's true enough that you won't fall asleep in the middle. But if you do, you're going to miss the devastatingly attractive Rupert Graves, who steals the whole movie.