Upper crust novelist Edward St Aubyn's superlative novel charting the soul-destroying desperation at the heart of an English upper middle-class father was always going to require an accomplished director to make it sing on screen.
Unfortunately, seasoned documentary maker Gerald Fox isn't the man for the job.
Morally evasive, emotionally wrenching and darkly humorous, the book's complex ebb-and-flow beautifully evoked by St Aubyn's spare prose certainly isn't the raw material for a debut feature director.
And Fox - best known for his award-winning arts documentaries - is so reverential to the source material that Tom Hollander is drafted in to spout tracts of the original text in an intrusive voiceover when it was really Fox's job was to convey the mood through dialogue, character and plot.
Jack Davenport has a brave stab at the role of Patrick Melrose. a father of two small children whose moroseness turns to anger when he realises his befuddled mother (an impressive Margaret Tyzack in her last performance) is about to hand over the family's Provencal holiday home to Adrian Dunbar's amiably scheming New Age charlatan.
Melrose (who was sexually abused by his father in St Aubyn's previous triptych of novels Some Hope) descends into a dark pit of pills, booze and nocturnal visits to his accomodating sister-in-law while delivering sublimely crafted insults to all and sundry.
You rather suspect Rupert Everett may have made a better fist of delivering this variation of bored rage although Annabel Mullion as his extremely long-suffering wife is excellent.
The pin-sharp writing of St Aubyn - who co-wrote the screenplay - is always going to shine through...but you rather wish he'd been better served by his director.