Rufus Fletcher (Northam) is a young medical student with his eye on making a brilliant career in medicine as a gynaecologist. He and his good friend, Adam Verne-Smith (Douglas Hodge), are at a loose end after classes finish for the summer.
When Adam unexpectedly inherits an estate called Wyvis Hall, the two decide to spend summer holidays camping out at the estate and look forward to a hot and lazy summer.
An odd assortment of several young people joins the pair before the summer is over. The motley group fall into a strange routine of partying, sleeping late, and casual sexual encounters.
Ten years later, the new owners of the estate discover the buried bodies of a woman and a baby on the grounds of Wyvis Hall.
A Fatal Inversion examines the toxic, unintended consequences of a hidden crime. Moving deftly between the events of that fateful summer and those a decade later, the film builds in tension and suspense keeping us on the edge of our seats. Bit by bit, we learn of a series of seemingly random choices and incidents that culminated in a horrific event, altering forever the lives of all concerned.
Northam is perfectly cast as the handsome and ambitious Rufus Fletcher. Fletcher may be sly and selfish, but he’s prone to moments of sensitivity. With a subtle change in tone of voice and facial expression, Northam softens Fletcher and we see another side to his narcissistic nature. We easily understand why Adam adores and admires his friend.
Douglas Hodge emanates anxiety and panic as the hapless Adam Verne-Smith. We see him, ten years after that calamitous summer, with pain and suffering written across his face. The secret he kept hidden for so many years exacts a heavy toll on his health and his relationship with his wife and rubs out much of the joy he should feel as a new father.
Fascinating to watch, Northam and Hodge move easily between time periods. Loose-limbed, exuberant, and lanky youths during flashbacks, they transform into restrained and mature professionals during scenes set in the present day.
It’s a treat to see these now very well-established actors in early roles. Northam continued to star in roles on the stage as well as in TV and feature films, winning accolades and awards along the way.
Hodge, also a successful stage actor, went on to direct and is an accomplished musician. He’s currently wowing audiences on Broadway and recently received a 2010 Tony award for best performance by a leading actor in a musical for his role in La Cage aux Folles. He previously won the 2009 Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical for the same role.
A Fatal Inversion, the novel, won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger award the year it was published. A true page-turner, the book is almost impossible to put down. The final secret reveals itself on the very last page.
Written over 20 years ago, the writing and story is as fresh as ever and remains a great read!
Film and book highly recommended.
Film: 4 stars out of 5 Book: 4 stars out of 5
Reviewed by Anne for JeremyNortham.net
With thanks to Vicki for the picture of Jeremy Northam as Rufus Fletcher.