During Charles II’s reign over England in the 1600s, only men could be actors. Edward “Ned” Kynaston was one of the last actors playing female roles. He was descibed by a contemporary as “the loveliest lady that ever I saw in my life”. In the movie we meet him (Billi Krudup) in the peak of his career, sought after by both men and women, but when his dresser, Maria (Claire Danes), breaks the law and performs the role of Shakespeare’s Desdemona in an illicit secret theatre, everything changes. Charles II (Rupert Everett) decrees women—and only women—can perform the female roles. Ned is suddenly out of work; but more than that, he has completely lost his identity. As Maria’s fame grows, Ned’s own life spirals downwards. Ned was trained since adolescence to be a woman, it penetrated his entire personality. He saw himself as a woman not a man and when he was notified he couldn’t be the only thing he knew how to be he was totally lost. He didn’t even think he could play a male role.
This movie has been characterized as a comedy, so I suppose it is, but I find it more of a historical drama. In any case, it’s an absolutely lovely film. I don’t think I ever came across any of the lead actors before, but I found their performances utterly impressive and convincing. There seemed to be a chemistry between them, both in the more dramatic and the more humorous scenes. There is a love scene that I think is one of the most beautiful I ever seen on screen. The end is fantastic – leaving every door open.
There were not so many videos to be found on Youtube. The love scene was there and the ending, but I thought both would be spoilers. I settled for a trailer: