After running away from her home in Galway, Nora (Lynch) is working as a hotel maid in Dublin when she meets Jim (McGregor). The two are immediately smitten, and despite the cultural divide between them, they stick together, eventually running off to Trieste to start again. And starting again seems to be a recurring theme, as their relationship dips and bumps through Joyce's jealousies and artistic compulsions and Nora's feisty blend of dependence and self-determination.
Lynch and McGregor are superb in the roles, lifting the film far above the usual reverential bio-pic to create characters with real spark and life. It's especially nice to see such a respected figure portrayed on-screen with real-life struggles, lusts and flaws that don't diminish his genius at all. And in a vast range of tiny roles, the supporting cast adds layers of meaning and texture. The frustration is that, even while James and Nora are fascinating, their back stories remain fuzzy and their sudden, repetitive actions and reactions are a bit infuriating. On the other hand, the lovely production design, insightful script and superb cast all combine to make this a compelling and quite moving film romance. And if you want to understand the real people, read the books.
[15--adult themes and situations, language, nudity] 16.May.00
UK release 19.May.00
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