The three people in this love triangle have given us a celebrity story for our times - salacious and scandalous, yet silly and inconsequential
Every time I look at the photos of Dominic West and Lily James in Rome, or Dominic and his wife Catherine FitzGerald a few days later in Wiltshire, I notice a detail that I hadn’t seen before.
Like an oil painting that comes to life at different angles or an opus that needs more than one listen, the photos of the unseemly love triangle are at once compelling, confusing and utterly absurd.
If you’re new to this story, we should probably start in Rome, where married actor Dominic (50) and his co-star Lily James (31) are alleged to have spent two nights together in the Hotel de la Ville. On Sunday, they were photographed enjoying la dolce vita and soaking up the sites of the city on an e-scooter.
The married father of four couldn’t keep his hands off Lily as they explored the city and the following day the tabloids ran with the photos along with a headline about their “passionate” kiss.
At first glance, the story has all the makings of a classic Hollywood scandal — middle-aged actor cheats with much younger co-star — yet most fair-minded people aren’t particularly interested in the apparent marital transgression.
Yes, there’s been plenty of finger-pointing and self-righteous moralising but it’s the overall mise-en-scène that has captured people’s attention: the backdrop of Rome; the boozy lunch, the sight of two grown adults squeezed onto an e-scooter together...
It’s worth noting that most extra-marital affairs in Hollywood are conducted with extreme caution. They usually involve wigs, aliases and blacked-out SUVs. They have never, as far as I’m aware, involved an e-scooter with a top speed of 25km.
It’s not just the e-scooter, though. It’s the arrangement of their bodies on it.
Lily’s at the front, looking bored and vaguely self-conscious as she checks her phone. Is this the moment she realises they are being pursued by the paparazzi, or is she reminding a friend to send a fake emergency text so she can lose your man and maybe catch the end of that Italo disco day rave?
Dominic is at the back of the scooter, holding onto the handles for dear life and awkwardly bending his knees in an attempt to increase the vehicle’s horse power. Is this the moment he realises they should have got a taxi, or is he determined to prove that he still lives life hard, free and relatively fast?
Meanwhile, the e-scooter just keeps on scooting. It brought them to the Spanish Steps. It delivered them to Piazza di Pietra. This isn’t a story about forbidden love. It’s the story of a little scooter that could.
The absurdity continued on Monday when Dominic arrived back to the UK to face the music and deal with the paparazzi camped outside his family home.
The following day, rather than calling a publicist for some crisis PR advice, the couple decided to leave a handwritten note outside, that read: ‘Our marriage is strong and we’re very much still together. Thank you.’
Was it an official statement for the press, or a haiku for journalists to quietly contemplate as they shouted in the letterbox? Why did they both sign it? Did they position it in the grass, where it was photographed, as a sort of treasure hunt, or did they originally affix it to their front door?
At 10.30am, the couple stepped outside their home for a performative “united front” press call. Dominic seems to be wearing the same outfit he was wearing in Rome (maybe he has a uniform). Landscaper Catherine seems only mildly inconvenienced. In fact, she looks like she was relaxing in front of the fire and watching Gardeners’ World when her husband insisted she put on her slippers and come outside to meet the press.
There was no ‘revenge dress’. There was no Nancy Dell’Olio-style “I feel fantastico!” statement. Honestly, she looked like she was in the middle of a really good book while her husband looked like he needed 36 hours of sleep.
In many ways, the three people in this love triangle have given us a celebrity story for our times. It’s salacious and it’s scandalous. It’s silly and inconsequential.
The people at the centre of it look like they’ve already moved on to more important things. The people who usually have an opinion on these things — that would be us — have finally realised that relationships aren’t black and white.
Yes, we’re all interested in the finer details like the e-scooter and the hand-written note, but it seems like we’re finally moving away from the toxic narrative that tends to surround cheating scandals and considering other perspectives.
There’s been some hand-wringing about the sanctity of marriage but many more are wondering if Catherine and Dominic are in fact in an open relationship.
There’s been some ‘homewrecker’ jibes hurled at Lily but they’ve quickly been shut down by a growing cohort of people who believe that men should be held accountable for their actions.
There was an attempt to brand Catherine as the heartbroken, long-suffering wife but we need only look at her composure to realise that she’s anything but.
It’s a compelling story that many of us can’t look away from, but perhaps we’re beginning to realise that you can take an interest in a celebrity scandal without forming an opinion on it.
Top Bollywood filmmakers and industry unions have filed a lawsuit against two popular TV news channels, asking them to refrain from “irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks” against the Indian movie industry.