Love and Death on Long Island

Love and Death on Long Island is a 1997 UK / Canadian film directed by Richard Kwietniowski and starring Jason Priestley, John Hurt, Fiona Loewi, Sheila Hancock and Anne Reid. The storyline of obsession somewhat resembles that of Death in Venice. The title includes a pun: Death/De'Ath.

Love and Death on Long Island
Directed byRichard Kwietniowski
Produced bySteve Clark Hall
Christopher Zimmer
Written byRichard Kwietniowski
Based onLove and Death on Long Island
by Gilbert Adair
Music byThe Insects
Richard Grassby-Lewis
CinematographyOliver Curtis
Edited bySusan Shipton
Skyline Films
Telefilm Canada
British Screen
Distributed byCinepix Film Properties
Lions Gate Films
Release date
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$2,581,012 (US and Canada)


Giles De'Ath (John Hurt) is a British writer who doesn't use or understand anything modern. One day, he forgets his keys and locks himself out of his flat. It begins to rain, so he goes to see an E. M. Forster movie but, instead, accidentally enters the wrong theatre and sees the teen flick Hotpants College II starring Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley). He becomes instantly infatuated with Ronnie's beauty and obsessed with the young actor. He goes to his movies in the cinema, buys teen magazines and cuts out pictures of him, and buys a VCR and TV in order to play rented video tapes of his movies. He lets his housekeeper come into his office less and less, so that he can do these things undisturbed.

As his infatuation grows, it becomes obvious to those around him that Giles is becoming increasingly disturbed, though they don't know why. His friend and agent suggests that he take a holiday.

Giles sets out to meet Ronnie on Long Island, New York. He flies to Long Island and takes a train to Ronnie's home town where he takes a motel room for several weeks. He searches the town for Ronnie - unsuccessfully at first - but finally spots Ronnie's girlfriend and follows her to the supermarket. Giles rams his shopping cart into her to force an introduction and invents a story about his god-daughter, Abigail, being in love with Ronnie. The girlfriend, Audrey (Fiona Loewi), is seemingly glad to have found a fan-base for Ronnie in England, and spends the day talking to Giles. She then tells him that she and Ronnie will invite him over at another time, and they can talk about Ronnie's career.

Eventually Giles becomes a regular visitor at Ronnie and Audrey's house. Ronnie is flattered by Giles, and Giles is able to stay longer in his presence by claiming that he will write a new script for Ronnie, one that better suits his acting abilities. Audrey becomes suspicious of Giles's motives regarding Ronnie, and she tells Giles that she is taking Ronnie to see her parents for an extended visit. Giles is very upset, and in a last-ditch effort confronts Ronnie and tells him how he feels about him. He says that many artists have had younger male lovers, and that Ronnie should split up with Audrey because it is obvious to him (Giles) that it won't last. Ronnie rejects Giles but seems genuinely concerned for him. The film ends with a screening of Ronnie's next film: another Hotpants College movie where he quotes Walt Whitman at his mother's funeral as written by Giles. What happens to Giles in the end is not shown.



The film has a musical score by Richard Grassby-Lewis. It was filmed in Nova Scotia.

Release and distribution

The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.[2] It was picked up by Cinepix Film Properties after its premiere at the Festival.[3] It was distributed by Lionsgate in the United States and Canada where it grossed $2,581,012 at the box office.[4]

Critical response

Love and Death on Long Island received positive reviews from critics.[5] Critic Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars and praised Hurt for giving De'Ath "a dignity...that transcends any snickering amusement at his infatuation.[6] And the Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro also gave the film three and a half stars and called it "a bewitching comedy about what happens when Giles opens himself up to the modern world -- and his own sexual inclinations," adding that it's "charming, caustic, touching and vaguely creepy." Caro singled out Hurt for capturing "the ridiculousness of Giles' mission without ever sacrificing his dignity. It's a performance in which you marvel at the details: the contrast between his haughty manner outside and his private embarrassed laughter as he watches a Bostock video in which a biker is catapulted into a manure pile; his startled reaction to a car that robotically warns, "You are standing too close to this vehicle"; the way he flinches when a close-up of a mortally wounded Bostock character cuts to a shot of a priest, as if Giles had forgotten that the precious image on his TV screen was not fixed there." Caro also lauded director Kwietniowski for showing "a gentle touch in portraying Giles' folly and satirizing British stuffiness and American anti-intellectualism."[7]

The film currently has an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 38 reviews.[8]


  1. Alexander Walker, Icons in the Fire: The Rise and Fall of Practically Everyone in the British Film Industry 1984-2000, Orion Books, 2005 p271
  2. "Festival de Cannes: Love and Death on Long Island". Retrieved 2009-09-27.
  3. Kaufman, Anthony (September 29, 1997). "NYFF Press Conference Report-"Love and Death on Long Island"". indieWire. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
  4. "Love and Death on Long Island (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
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