Ken Tucker
June 19, 1992 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Great Performances: The Lost Language Of Cranes

type
TV Show
Current Status
In Season
runtime
87 minutes
performer
Brian Cox, Angus MacFadyen
director
Nigel Finch
author
Sean Mathias
broadcaster
PBS
genre
Drama

We gave it an A-

Philip Benjamin (Angus MacFadyen) is a young Brit-ish man having an affair with a moody young American man, played by thirtysomething‘s Corey Parker. Philip’s father, Owen (Brian Cox, of Hidden Agenda), spends frequent evenings cruising gay movie houses in London, in the market for quick, furtive sex. The Lost Language of Cranes, based on David Leavitt’s acclaimed 1986 novel, is about what happens when father and son reveal their homosexuality — to each other and to the only woman in their lives, Rose (Eileen Atkins), Owen’s wife and Philip’s mother.

Leavitt’s emotionally intricate story has been transplanted from the U.S. to Britain with smooth skill by screenwriter Sean Mathias. Nigel Finch has directed Language in a swift yet casual manner that removes any possible exploitiveness from the movie’s scenes, fairly explicit for television, of affection between men. Then too, sending this story overseas places it in a more accurate perspective: Cranes is, in its way, an excellent example of British ”kitchen sink” drama, in which characters trapped in stifling emotional situations discuss, argue, and fight over their problems from every angle.

Cranes, unlike many American TV movies, doesn’t idealize its gay characters; they are fully drawn, fallible people. Owen, in particular, comes off as a fascinatingly selfish fellow whose cowardly fear of admitting his sexual preference to his wife causes her immense, unnecessary pain. Cranes features first-rate acting by all three of its stars; it goes on a bit too long, and its ending is flat, but it’s a punchy piece of drama nonetheless. A-

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