This is the kind of filmmaking that takes your breath away with its majestic beauty and human grittiness. Filmed in Romania, the expansive landscapes play as vital a role in the story as the characters, representing the seemingly impassable obstacles between war and peace ... between death and love. Kidman is excellent as a spoiled city girl forced to learn the ways of the land ... and of her own heart. Law gives his strongest performance yet as the thoughtful Inman; he has very little dialog, but speaks volumes with his face and physicality. Zellweger is fantastic in a role that's both the scene-stealing comic relief and the voice of earthy honesty.
And the cast is filled out with gifted bit players: Hoffman as a priest with women problems, Portman as a lonely young widow, Sutherland as Ada's churchman father, Gleeson as Ruby's violin-playing dad, Baker as a friendly but nervous neighbour, Ribisi as a frustrated farmer, Atkins as a wild mountain woman, and so on. These characters bring out the story's Odyssey-like structure brilliantly, propelling the action and forcefully defining the central characters. The only false notes are some wobbly accents from the international cast ... and Kidman and Zellweger's impeccably plucked eyebrows, perfectly highlighted cheekbones and sumptuously tousled hair. Still, this is first-rate filmmaking, from Minghella's understated script and liquid direction to John Seale's graceful cinematography and an elegant score by Gabriel Yared and T Bone Burnett. A real stunner of a movie with something important to say.
dir-scr Anthony Minghella
with Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sutherland, Kathy Baker, Ray Winstone, Charlie Hunnam, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi, Eileen Atkins, Jack White, Ethan Suplee, Jena Malone, Cillian Murphy
release US 25.Dec.03; UK 26.Dec.03
Pre-war idyll: Law, Kidman and Sutherland take a stroll
Nathan, Australia: "This is the must-see movie of the year! It is heart-wreching! The stars all acted their hearts off! Could it be Oscar number 2 for Nicole and Renee's first Oscar? These girls really outdid themselves! Go see this movie because it is truly a beautiful movie that will move all." (9.Dec.03)
Laurie T, Minneapolis: "Saw this one on New Year's Eve, and all I can say is Oscar time? Jude is awesome, Nicole is beautiful, Renee plays her part very well. It shows how awful things were at that time. We really enjoyed this movie." (7.Jan.04)