The tragic story of Oscar Wilde is undoubtedly one of the more formative and iconic in Western queer history - one that defined the idea of what it meant to be gay in the modern era for several generations.

The long shadow Wilde casts clearly weighs heavily on the mind of Rupert Everett, as the British actor best known for My Best Friend's Wedding and Saint Trinians here turns writer, director and star of The Happy Prince, a chronicle of the last days of Wilde's life.

A bleak film that nevertheless brims with the spirit and cheek of Wilde himself, Everett is here revealed as the man best suited to telling this particular tale, turning in a complex performance as Wilde, all the while crafting a fascinating ode to a figure clearly influential in Everett's life.

Everett's skill as a director is a little raw and rough around the edges, and yet what the audience ultimately leaves with is the immensity of his passion for this story.

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Everett has argued that Wilde's suffering regularly echoed that of Christ himself, and The Happy Prince functions best as a kind of Biblical tale of suffering and transcendence, as Wilde finds himself in exile in Paris, slowly succumbing to illness and poverty.

Adorned in a magnificent fat suit and transformative prosthetics, Everett is the star-presence here – so much so that the cast of British greats he has assembled around him (including Colin Firth, Emily Watson and Tom Wilkinson) barely get a look. That's perhaps to be expected with a personality as big as Wilde's.

Like many of the best biopics, the film anchors around a single event in the figure's life – here being Wilde's final days – while the narrative around this event fragments into shards of memory, filling in the blanks and working as smaller pieces of the larger whole.

We jump from Wilde's heyday as the toast of London, to his prison sentence, to his various self-destructive relationships – Everett maintaining audience interest through some nifty camera work that pulls us through a sometimes-dragging middle section.

With The Happy Prince, Everett has revealed himself to be one to watch behind the camera, as well as in front of it.

The Happy Prince

Director: Rupert Everett
Starring: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Tom Wilkinson.
Rating: M - Offensive language, nudity, drug use and sexual references
Time: 105 minutes
Verdict: Rupert Everett breathes new life into an English literature giant