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Dorian Gray (2009 film)

Dorian Gray
British promotional poster
Directed by Oliver Parker
Produced by Barnaby Thompson
Screenplay by Toby Finlay
Based on The Picture of Dorian Gray 
by Oscar Wilde
Starring Ben Barnes
Colin Firth
Rebecca Hall
Ben Chaplin
Emilia Fox
Rachel Hurd-Wood
Music by Charlie Mole
Cinematography Roger Pratt
Edited by Guy Bensley
Distributed by Momentum Pictures
Release dates
  • 9 September 2009 (2009-09-09)
Running time
112 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $22,410,097 [1]

Dorian Gray is a 2009 British fantasy-thriller drama film based on Oscar Wilde's 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

This version is directed by Oliver Parker, written by Toby Finlay (his first screenplay), and stars Ben Barnes as Dorian Gray and Colin Firth as Lord Henry Wotton. The film tells the story of the titular character, an attractive Englishman whose image is captured in an enchanted painting that keeps him from aging. His portrait becomes tainted with every sin he commits, while he remains young and handsome.

The film, which was released in the United Kingdom on 9 September 2009,[2] competed in the Official Fantàstic Competition at the 2009 Sitges Film Festival.[3][4]


When a naïve young Dorian Gray arrives in late Victorian London, by train, to inherit an estate left to him by his abusive grandfather, he is swept into a social whirlwind by the charismatic Lord Henry Wotton, who introduces Gray to the hedonistic pleasures of the city. Lord Henry's friend, society artist Basil Hallward, paints a portrait of Gray to capture the full power of his youthful beauty. When the portrait is unveiled, Gray makes a flippant pledge: he would give anything to stay as he is in the picture—even his soul.

Gray meets and falls in love with young budding actress Sibyl Vane. After a few weeks, he proposes marriage to her. Lord Henry tells Gray that having children is "the beginning of the end" and takes Gray to a brothel. Gray leaves her, which breaks Sibyl's heart, and Sibyl drowns herself soon after. Gray learns of this the following day from her brother, James ("Jim"), who also tells Gray that Sybil was pregnant. Jim then tries to kill Gray before being restrained and carried off by the authorities. Gray's initial grief disappears as Lord Henry persuades him that all events are mere experiences and without consequence. His hedonistic lifestyle worsens, distancing him from a concerned Hallward.

Gray goes home to find the portrait of himself warped and twisted, and realises that his pledge has come true; while the portrait ages, its owner's sins are shown as physical defects on the canvas. The curse of the portrait of Gray begins in earnest, leading him to kill Hallward brutally after telling him his secret, and then to dump Hallward's dismembered body in the River Thames. However, soon afterwards Hallward's body is recovered and buried.

Gray then leaves London to travel for many years, inviting Lord Henry to come with him although Lord Henry declines because of his wife's pregnancy. Gray returns to London and during the welcome back party the guests are surprised to see that he has not aged at all during his 18-year absence. He becomes close to Lord Henry's daughter, Emily, a member of the UK suffragette movement, despite Lord Henry's distaste for such a relationship because of Gray's lifestyle and unnatural appearance, Emily having provided Lord Henry with a greater moral focus and having changed him for the better.

Although Gray appears genuinely interested in changing his ways as he spends time with Emily, matters are complicated when he is confronted by Jim, still seeking revenge for his sister's death. Despite Gray's attempts to pretend to be someone else by pointing out his apparent age, Jim nevertheless deduces Gray's true identity, only to be killed by a train while pursuing Gray in the London Underground. As Gray makes arrangements to leave London with Emily, Lord Henry's study of old photographs makes him remember the time when he teased Gray to deal with the devil for eternal youth and beauty at the cost of his soul.

Breaking into Gray's house as Gray and Emily are making plans to leave together, Lord Henry discovers the concealed portrait, but is interrupted by Gray before he can uncover it. Although Gray attempts to convince Lord Henry that he still cherishes his friendship and genuinely loves his daughter, Lord Henry discovers the stained scarf of Basil in a box, prompting Gray to declare angrily that he is what Lord Henry has made him, the personification of the life Lord Henry preached but never dared practise. Full of anger and grief, Gray attempts to strangle Lord Henry but is distracted by Emily's call long enough for Lord Henry to knock him aside and expose the portrait.

Disgusted and horrified at the twisted sight on the canvas, Lord Henry throws a lit lamp at the portrait, causing it to catch fire, and then locks the gate of the attic to ensure that Gray and the painting are destroyed. Emily pleads with Gray for the key. After seeing her and realising that he really loves her, he turns his back. As Lord Henry drags his daughter out of the house, Gray's last words are to assure Emily that she has his whole heart. Resolving to end it all, Gray stabs the painting with a poker, causing his body to age the years that it has never suffered, Gray charging at the portrait to impale it as his years catch up to him before the attic is consumed by an explosion.

A few months later, scarred from the explosion and after a futile attempt to reconcile with Emily over the phone, Lord Henry heads to his attic where he keeps the now-youthful portrait of Gray, grimly noting that nobody will look at it now. As Lord Henry leaves, the portrait's eyes glow, suggesting that Gray's soul may still be within the portrait even after his death.


Supporting parts are played by Pip Torrens as Victor, Gray's valet; Jo Woodcock as Lord and Lady Radley's daughter Celia; Max Irons as Lucius, a young man whom Gray assaults at a party for touching the key to the attic door; David Sterne as the theatre manager who first introduces Gray to Sibyl; and Douglas Henshall as Alan Campbell, an acquaintance of Gray's who is present when Jim Vane tries to strangle Gray.


The film began shooting in summer 2008 at Ealing Studios and locations across London[5] and wrapped in October.[citation needed] The film received £500,000 of National Lottery funding via the UK Film Council's Premiere Fund.[5]


The film received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes, the film reviews aggregator, gave the film 42% based on critics' opinions.[6] Most of the negative reviews are based on the acting and of the story not following the original plot of the book.


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