Ruth Ellis (Miranda Richardson) was a night club hostess in one of London's private clubs. It was a Spring evening in 1954 when David Blakely (Rupert Everett) walked in with some friends. Little more than a year later, Ruth Ellis was hanged for the murder of Blakely. Dance with a Stranger tells the compelling, tawdry, almost inevitable story of what happened.
Ellis was divorced and living with her young son above the club she helped manage. She bleached her hair, knew how to keep men laughing and buying, and was definitely not part of the upper class system. Blakely was a race car driver, wealthy, young, selfish, had the right friends, and had never had to face any real responsibility in his life. With some mixture of lust and need, the two of them instantly became entangled in each others' lives.
"Where do you live?" he asks her. "Over the shop," she says. "Can I take you home tonight?" "Yes."
Their affair follows a pattern. First lust, then tears, abuse, his forgetting her for a while, her desperation, and lust again. She has one friend, Desmond Cussen (Ian Holm). Cussen loves her but is the type of man who can't quite get up the nerve to kiss her, much less invite her to bed. He trails after her and tries to pick up the pieces. Cussen knows the kind of man Blakely is. "Why can't you leave him alone," he once shouts at Ellis. "He's so involved with himself he can't think of anything else."
The results are predictable. Ellis slides further into misery and fixation the more Blakely takes her for granted and forgets about her at times. One night she takes a pistol, follows him to a pub, and when he leaves she carefully puts two bullets in his chest.
The trial was a great event in Britain. It had everything: sex, the class system, a tawdry affair. The legal system couldn't deal with her fast enough. The trial started June 20, 1955. She was hanged July 13. Ruth Ellis was the last woman hanged by the British.
The movie is excellent and the performances are extraordinary. Rupert Everett was 26 when he made the film. He's perfect as the product of a privileged system, so selfish as to be cowardly, so self involved that he misses entirely what he is doing to Ellis, or even care if he did realize. Miranda Richardson at 27 carries the movie. Her performance made her a star. I can't describe what she does except that every word she says and every step she takes rings true. She is utterly mesmerizing.