This dramatization of Evelyn Waugh's novel is nicely done. The story concerns the marriage of Tony and Brenda Last, members of Britain's upper crust. From all outward appearances and, as far as the oblivious Tony is concerned the marriage is perfect. Brenda is bored and proceeds headlong into a destructive relationship with John Beaver, a man without personality or resources. Tony watches in denial and Brenda watches in self-absorption as their "perfect" world crumbles.
The dialogue in the film is remarkably faithful to the novel. With one notable exception, the actors quietly underplay the scenes, almost all of which involve tense and emotionally-wringing scenarios. This serves to underscore the absurdity of the "stiff upper lip" social mores of the time. The film stars James Wilby as Tony Last. Wilby is a dead ringer for the young Evelyn Waugh -- a nice touch given the story's autobiographical origins. Kristen Scott Thomas stars as Brenda.
About three-fourths of the film is set in London and rural Great Britain during the years between WWI and WWII. The remainder is set in the Amazon jungles. The film's score features native South American musical instruments throughout the scenes set in Great Britain which, again, serves to underscore the film's social themes.
Sir Alec Guinness dominates the jungle scenes as the amoral Mr. Todd. He's the one actor in this film who doesn't underplay his role. In this film, Guinness is unwashed, unshaven, scheming, hateful and maniacal. In short, he becomes "The Man Who Liked Dickens". I felt that his performance here was one of the best I've seen.
I rated this film 4 stars rather than 5 because there are one or two scenes which are so underplayed I would have missed them entirely had I not read the novel beforehand and been on the lookout for them.
Overall, this is definitely worth watching.