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Lord Byrons short,
scandal-filled life has attracted as much attention as his poetry. Byron, a
two-hour BBC dramatization of the poet's final thirteen years, offers a thoughtful
interpretation of the legendary figure, combined with witty language and sharp
Nick Dears script is one factor separating Byron from the spate of other early-nineteenth-century period pieces that have appeared on the network. Dear fully exploits the comic potential of the poets contempt for the morals and tastes of his society. He uses some authentic Byron quotes and the ones that he adds himself are perfect for the character. On hearing that a woman is looking for a husband, Byron replies, Can she not find one in Jane Austen? Later, he responds to a question about whether he likes children by saying, Fervent admirer of King Herod as a matter of fact.
Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, Melinda and Melinda)) adds depth to the title characters wit, depicting his cynicism, melancholy, and self-centeredness. Millers skill and his uncanny resemblance to Byron make him a perfect fit for the role. Some of the best scenes involve Byrons servant William Fletcher (Philip Glenister), during which the lords callousness toward his longsuffering retainer makes an interesting contrast to his professions of contempt for
Vanessa Redgrave (The Gathering Storm, The Pledge)has some nice scenes as Lady Melbourne, a socially prominent older woman who serves as the poets flirtatious confidante. However, the interaction between Byron and his friend John Cam Hobhouse (Stephen Campbell Moore) is an even stronger aspect of the show.
The use of Byrons poetry is sparing but well chosen, particularly during the characters long exile in
The film refuses to romanticize its subject and leaves no doubt about Byrons military ineptitude after he joins the fight for Greek independence. The pacing slows at the end, partly in an effort to show the uncertainty and drifting of the lords final days, which continued even during the crusade in which he sought his missing sense of purpose. But the slowdown is too severe and the ending drags as a result. Even so, Byron is a compelling portrait that captures the mans endearing qualities without flinching from the more sordid aspects of his life.
- Chris Pepus