A young doctor arrives in London and becomes friends with a enthusiastic professor as well as a beautiful Lab technician. Unfortunately after moving in with the professor he soon realises all is not what it seems with his friend using random people as experiments.
This eccentric offering finds the odd combination of Richardson, Dance and Owen going through their paces in a peculiarly resonant drama of social, scientific and sexual revolution set on the eve of 1900. So far, so quirky British costume drama. What's really weird here, however, is the dialogue and characters: all very 90s in nature and delivered without any of the usual plum-in-mouth or cor-blimey caricaturing of other tales set at the time.
Owen is the young doctor son of an eccentric Romanian-Jewish family who flouts conventional wisdom and hangs up his stethoscope to join an elite London research institute under the tutelage of cranky professor Dance, where he attracts both the fancy of Richardson's sexually liberated lab technician and the professional interest of Dance, all three sharing a visionary's view of the future which draws them together. All goes swimmingly until Owen falls out with the prof, who is nicking his friend's ideas, and is banned from the institute. Moving in with Richardson, who earns the pair a crust, all hell breaks loose when they discover Dance is dabbling in eugenics, using the local gypsy population as guinea pigs.
And here, of course, lies the heart of the film, with the flimsy romance subplot and a sketchy racist theme concerning Owen's Jewish family merely serving as vehicles for Poliakoff's message about the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by mankind then and, he implies, now. Thought-provoking without being unnecessarily intellectual, contemporary while being grounded in the past, and prettily photographed in best period picture tradition, this is a round peg in a square genre for sure, and all the more interesting for it.
At the film's core lies the interesting topic of testing new medicine of humans against their will however sadly in this film, it is handled badly and manages to lose any of our attention with the predictable romance between Owen and Richardson. With a good cast it seems a shame to have wasted them on a poor script.