user22274’s review published on Letterboxd:
Imagine that you're an actor who's secretly gay, and you're approached to play the part of a man who's secretly gay. Now imagine it's in a society where being homosexual is a crime punishable by jail time. How would you respond?
This is the situation that Bogarde found himself in when approached to do this film in 1961, and by all accounts he didn't hesitate. The whole project is similarly startlingly brave. It's hard to find a modern analogue, but inserting yourself into what was such a heated topic at the time opened the stars and producers to a whole heap of criticism and abuse.
Viewed now, the film is still quite startling, mainly for a modern audience in its realistic portrayal of a society where homosexual acts are illegal and therefore gays are not only forced to keep their nature secret, but are therefore open to blackmail and intimidation over it. Perhaps we've all seen casual homophobia in action, but nothing like this.
When the term "homosexual" is finally spoke, it's a real shock, similarly with the word "queer" - not just insults, but labels that put the person outside the law.
Performances are excellent throughout, and the relationship between Bogarde's character and his wife is particularly emotionally charged, as the layers of social niceties are peeled back and the fundamentals of a marriage of convenience are laid bare without cliché.
Also highly noteworthy is Derren Nesbitt as the smiling instigator of most of the violence and intimidation. He's quite chilling, a sociopathic character entirely protected by his society's prejudices. He'd have made an excellent Bond baddie or other Hollywood evil stereotype, and definitely deserved more breaks than perhaps he got.
Perhaps some of the incidental characters are a little stereotypical, but the film never flinches from the inevitable conclusion to the bravery shown by the main character. It's said that the film was highly influential in the creation of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which made homosexuality legal; for modern audiences it now serves as a unique reminder of what society was like before that landmark legislation, as well as remaining a compelling drama.