Love in the Time of Cholera
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Mike Newell
scr Ronald Harwood
with Javier Bardem, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Benjamin Bratt, Unax Ugalde, John Leguizamo, Fernanda Montenegro, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ana Claudia Talancón, Laura Harring, Hector Elizondo, Liev Schreiber, Marcela Mar
release US 16.Nov.07, UK 21.Mar.08
07/UK New Line 2h18
Love in the Time of Cholera
Wedded bliss? Mezzogiorno and Bratt

bardem leguizamo sandino moreno
Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez's epic romance novel is brought to the screen in a sprawling film adaptation that never finds a consistent tone. And it's hard to believe it from the start.

Florentino (Ugalde then Bardem) is smitten with Fermina (Mezzogiorno) the moment he sees her. But her tyrant of a father (Leguizamo) forbids her from seeing him, holding out for a wealthier suitor. The years pass, and eventually Fermina meets and marries the suave doctor Urbino (Bratt). Meanwhile, Florentino continues to pine for her, bedding woman after woman in an effort to forget her. He even falls in love with one (Talancón) along the way. But it's more than 50 years later when he finally gets a chance to approach Fermina again.

The film opens with a scene in 1879 near the end of the story, before flashing back to tell the life-long saga. But this gets us off on the wrong foot, because the make-up used to age the actors simply doesn't work on screen, and since we can't believe the film's opening scenes, the rest of it feels off-balance as well, no matter how nicely it's played by the gifted, versatile Bardem and the charming, fresh Mezzogiorno.

And then there's the problem of tone, as Newell never quite finds the story's Latino soul. This tale really cries out for a more sensual, passionate style of filmmaking (where are Cuarón or Meirelles when we need them?) to convey the deeply submerged sense of yearning between these characters over such a long period of time. The plot itself is hugely involving, full of intriguing side characters and constant wrinkles over half a century, and yet we're more interested in the nutty collection of accents than the sense of delayed hope or potential tragedy.

That said, the film lovingly recreates 19th century Colombia with a sense of scale that's impressive, with outbreaks of both war and, yes, cholera. But while there are colourful events along the way, Bardem's progression from lovesick puppy to stooped old man feels somewhat contrived, while Mezzogiorno never even looks 30, despite the fact that at the end Fermina should be 72. In other words, it's a lovely story made into a mess of a movie.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, some violence 6.Feb.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall