Brideshead Revisited is a 2008 British drama film directed by Julian Jarrold based on the 1945 novel of the same name by Evelyn Waugh, which previously had been adapted in 1981 as the television serial Brideshead Revisited.
Directed by: Julian Jarrold
Music: Adrian Johnston
Cinematography: Jess Hall
Running time: 133 minutes
Country: United Kingdom
Although he aspires to become an artist, middle-class Charles Ryder reads history at the University of Oxford, where he befriends the flamboyant and wealthy Lord Sebastian Flyte. Sebastian's mother, Lady Marchmain, strongly disapproves of Sebastian's lifestyle, especially his heavy drinking. When Sebastian takes Charles home to visit his nanny, Charles is enthralled by the grandeur of the Marchmain family estate, known as Brideshead, and he is entranced by its residents, including the devout Roman Catholic Lady Marchmain and her other children, Sebastian's elder brother Bridey and his sisters Julia and Cordelia.
When Lord Marchmain invites Sebastian and Julia to visit him and his mistress Cara in Venice, Lady Marchmain encourages Charles to go with them in the hope that he can act as a positive influence on her son. Increasingly interested in Julia, Charles surreptitiously kisses her in a dark alley, unaware that Sebastian can see them from the other side of a canal. Jealous of his attention to his sister, Sebastian sets out to end their friendship, and on their return to Britain, Lady Marchmain makes it clear that Charles cannot marry Julia since he professes to be an atheist.
Sebastian's mother, concerned about his increasing alcoholism, cancels his allowance. During a visit to Brideshead, Ryder gives Sebastian money, which he uses to buy alcohol. Later that day, at a party given by the family, Charles is shocked when Lady Marchmain announces that the celebration is in honor of Julia's engagement to Canadian business man Rex Mottram. Sebastian arrives at the party late and improperly dressed. After a scene that is very embarrassing to Lady Marchmain, Sebastian flees the party, and Lady Marchmain privately dresses down Charles because he gave Sebastian money, and tells him that he is no longer welcome at Brideshead. Sebastian flees to Morocco. Four years elapse.
Lady Marchmain has become terminally ill. She asks Charles to find Sebastian and bring him home. Charles travels to Morocco, but Sebastian could not return even if he wanted to, which he clearly does not. He is in the hospital with fluid in one of his lungs, and the doctor warns Charles that Sebastian is too ill to travel.
More time elapses. Julia marries Rex, and Charles marries as well, and becomes successful as an artist.
Charles is reunited with Julia on an ocean liner travelling to Britain from New York. They immediately realise they are still in love and decide to leave their respective spouses and live together. Charles and Julia return to Brideshead, where Charles plans on asking Rex to step aside so he and Julia can be together. Rex first implies he will never let Julia go, and accuses Charles of just wanting the estate. However, he then relents and agrees to release her in exchange for two of Charles's paintings, which are now viewed as a good investment. He also reveals that he converted to Catholicism to get Julia, and he disdains Charles for not having been willing to do the same. Julia overhears all of this, is shocked and angered, feeling like bartered goods. Their arrangements made, Charles and Julia prepare to leave Brideshead.
Just as they are driving out, however, they pass a small caravan of cars that are arriving: Lord Marchmain is terminally ill, and has returned with Cara so he can spend his final days in his home. On his deathbed Lord Marchmain, who hitherto has not wanted Catholicism, regains his faith and dies reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church. Deeply affected by her father's transformation, Julia decides she cannot relinquish her own faith to marry Charles, and the two sadly part.
Several years later, the Second World War is in process. Charles, now a disillusioned army captain, finds himself once again at Brideshead, this time in its capacity as a military base. A corporal tells him Julia is serving in the reserves and that her elder brother, Bridey, died during the Blitz. We also learn that he is alone – he has no girlfriend or wife. In the movie's final scene, Charles visits the family chapel, where he finds a single lit candle. He dips his hand into holy water and moves to snuff out a candle that is almost out of wax. However, he then reconsiders, and leaves the flame to burn.