The film uses an interview between a reporter and Rupert Everett as Guy Bennett (loosely based on real-life spy Guy Burgess) to frame the narrative, which is set at a Cambridge boarding school in the 1930s. Bennett is gay and mostly apolitical in the beginning, mainly interested in bedding a particularly winsome blond hunk. His friend Tommy Judd (Firth) is straight, but outspokenly socialist.
Homoerotic and political complications ensue, whereupon Guy finally comes to the groundbreaking realization that England in the 1930s is not exactly the mostly friendly place to be for someone who is openly gay and decides to emigrate to (and later spy for) the Cold War Soviet Union, because presumably that is the best place to go when you want maximum personal liberty and freedom of expression. Umm, right. So the film's explanation of Burgess' motives does not make a whole lot of sense, but it is still very nice to look at.
The film won an award at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival.
Provides examples of:
- Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Another Country runs on this trope, but on the not-unjustified premise of the power that prefects had in early 20th-Century British boarding schools.
- Agent Peacock: Rupert Everett as Guy Bennett. Nobody else has ever looked this badass in extremely effeminate dark sunglasses. And when he gets attacked by jocks he simply threatens to expose their numerous earlier homosexual experiences with him. Ka-Pow!
- Alas, Poor Yorick: Guy Bennett contemplates the empty bed of Martineau who committed suicide a few scenes earlier, then sighs: "Poor Martineau!"
- All Gays Are Promiscuous: Bennett again. Has apparently seduced anyone and everyone at that college, and probably their brothers too.
- Band of Brothers: Guy Bennett uses the quote as a reference to the spy ring in a conversation with a young female reporter at the beginning of the movie. She does not recognize the lines, highlighting the differences in age and education between the two.
- Coming-Out Story: Bennett. Despite having already been as obviously gay as a person could be at that time, the beating he receives for sending a note to James triggers his decision to openly declare his sexuality to Judd once and for all. Judd initially struggles with it, but seems quietly supportive after adjusting to the concept of his friend's "permanent" homosexuality.
- Cast Full of Pretty Boys: The film stars young Rupert Everett and Colin Firth, with a supporting turn by Cary Elwes, all three of whom are very cute.
- Corporal Punishment: Hoo, boy. What is arguably the film's climactic scene centers around this, with Bennett being bent over a table and savagely whipped for sending an (allegedly) shocking note to his male crush. The pain and humiliation propel him into confronting Judd about the issues between them and definitively coming out to him for the first time, which helps them to sort out their relationship and leave the film on a positive note, although the fallout of the beating does lead to Bennett losing his dream of becoming a House god. Life in all-boy British private schools in the thirties was not the most pleasant thing.
- Experimented in College: Most characters seem to agree that a little homosexual hanky-panky in college is entirely natural. They even fault the master (instructor) for walking in on Martineau and his friend, because if he were an old boy (i.e. a former pupil) he would supposedly have known from personal experience what goes on in the gym changing rooms.
- Gayngst-Induced Suicide: Martineau gets caught during some guy-on-guy action and a few minutes later (in the film) he offs himself. In a church, of all places.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting
- Nerds Are Sexy: Bennett keeps hitting on the somewhat nerdy, glasses-wearing socialist Tommy Judd (Firth), whom he claims to be the only guy in college to be immune to his charms. Though the fact that said nerd is played by Colin Firth may have something to do with Judd's sex appeal...
- Random Events Plot: Mostly. The narrative apparently spans about a month and focuses in no particular order on Bennett's attraction to James, Bennett's relationship with Judd, period views of homosexuality, the cloistered, nearly totalitarian private-school culture, the disciplinary dilemmas facing the more decent school prefects, Judd's communism, and Bennett's intense desire to become a "god", all interspersed with leisurely shots of the English countryside and elaborate architecture. It begins and ends with nothing really having been resolved and most plot threads (most noticeably Bennett's crush on James, which gradually gives way to Judd and Bennett's relationship) unresolved. Not that that's bad.
- Situational Sexuality: True to Boarding School stereotypes, pretty much student, aside from Judd, has fooled around with another male student at some point.