Your next binge watch: Desperate Romantics with Aidan Turner

Before Aidan Turner became Ross Poldark, he smouldered as an artist and poet in this Pre-Raphaelite period drama says Alison Graham

Desperate Romantics Aidan Turner

So, you think you’ve seen everything there is to see of Aidan Turner, recently seen displaying his well-tended chest hair as smouldering Ross Poldark? Think again.


At least, think again if you didn’t see Turner as artist/poet Dante Gabriel Rosetti in Desperate Romantics, Peter Bowker’s funny, roistering 2009 bio-drama about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood now available to watch online via Amazon Video and iTunes.

It was a massive great rollicking bottoms-and-bosoms romp, notionally based on Franny Moyle’s book of the same name. There was a fizzy cast (Rafe Spall as Holman Hunt, Samuel Barnett as John Everett Millais) and we occasionally saw them painting those gorgeous/painfully insipid (depending on your viewpoint) portraits.

But generally their time was taken up with noisy rogering, particularly Rosetti, who leapt on anyone with a cleavage. How did he find time for the painting and the poetry?

The boys did lots of striding purposefully down Victorian London’s streets in big hats and blousons, like a camp version of Reservoir Dogs, and Turner in particular revealed rather more than his acting talents as he dallied with the ladies, notably his muse, the doomed, fragile Lizzie Siddal (Amy Manson), who fell hard for Rosetti at terrible personal cost.

The story of the Brotherhood is a fascinating one. They were a band of brothers, determined to shake up the art establishment, which they achieved with the backing of John Ruskin (2017 Bafta winner Tom Hollander). Zoe Tapper glowed as his unfortunate wife Effie (Ruskin, it’s believed, was terrified of sex).

Desperate Romantics should have made Turner a huge star but, strangely, it didn’t and he had to wait six years to become a fully-fledged TV Crush in Poldark. For students of his early work, there’s much to enjoy here…


Desperate Romantics is available to watch on Amazon Video or iTunes