Guilt, intrigue, lust, nobility, and religion: Brideshead Revisited has it all. To the casual observer, historical epics named for and set in expansive English estates might recall romantic dramas a la Jane Austen, but Brideshead's characters, living between the World Wars, are more concerned with sin, grace, and redemption than class and manners.
Adapted from Evelyn Waugh's 1945 novel, the film tells the story of Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode), a young painter from a modest background studying history at Oxford. A chance meeting with Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw)—a dandified aesthete of dubious sexuality—blossoms into friendship, and Charles gets an intoxicating glimpse into the lifestyle of the rich and privileged that will alter the course of his life.
Sebastian and Charles spend much time eschewing study in favor of wasting time taking day trips around the countryside and holding raucous parties. After an idyllic picnic, Sebastian takes Charles to see the "place where his family lives"—the sumptuous estate of Brideshead Castle. Despite Sebastian's best efforts to exclude his family from their friendship, Charles gradually makes their acquaintance: Lady Marchmain (Emma Thomson), the matriarch of the Flyte family whose religious devotion has taken a detour toward dour guilt-mongering, beloved and witty sister Julia (Hayley Atwell), comically earnest eldest brother Bridey, and devout little sister Cordelia. (As typical with the British aristocracy, the Lord and Lady are called by their title—Marquis of Marchmain—while the family name is Flyte.) But one factor confounds Charles, an avowed atheist, and distances him from the family: they are Catholic, and he is not. To Charles' shock, even Sebastian ...1