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Possession (2002)

The past will connect them. The passion will possess them.

Directed by:

Neil LaBute

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

UK Certificate: 12

On DVD

Country: United States

Aaron Eckhart plays Roland Mitchell, an American research assistant struggling to fit in to British academia. During the course of his research, he finds some love letters by Victorian poet Randolph Ash (Jeremy Northam) hidden in a book that once belonged to Ash. Ash was well-known for his love for his wife, and his fidelity to her was never questioned until these letters surface and suggest an illicit affair. Roland begins to seek out the identity of the other party in the romantic correspondence. After some research, another Victorian poet Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle) becomes his prime suspect.

In order to find out more about her, he consults with Dr. Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow), as this is her area of expertise. Together they undertake a journey of discovery, in which they follow in the footsteps of Ash and LaMotte, digging out the hidden secrets to their story. As the tale of the historic romance is revealed, Roland and Maud's relationship develops in parallel. At the same time, they find themselves in a race against time to prevent the evidence – and their great discovery – from falling into the hands of the unscrupulous Professor Mortimer Cropper (Trevor Eve) and his co-conspirator Fergus Wolfe (Tony Stephens).

This is a pleasant enough romance based on an interesting premise. The story develops gradually through the finding and following of clues, although it has to be said that some of these come to hand rather too easily. Roland and Maud make rather unconvincing academics, frequently failing to question all the possible explanations for the clues they find, so it is fortunate that the trail they follow appears to be so straightforward. Unfortunately, neither the revealed romance of Ash and LaMotte nor the developing one of the Roland and Maud really demonstrate any great passion, making it hard for an audience to feel much passion for them. The film is beautifully made and good to look at, and the movement between times is handled sensitively and smoothly. The literary subject and language of the film, however, may not suit everyone.

Based on the Booker Prize winning novel by AS Byatt.

It's Got: Seamless switching between love stories in past and present.

It Needs: More passion from all parties concerned.

DVD Extras It’s always nice to find something like a director’s commentary included with this type of basic release. Extras: Director’s commentary, Trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Alternatives:

Oscar and Lucinda, The End of the Affair, The English Patient

Summary

A pleasing and well-made literary romance but lacking in some of the passion that would make it really engaging.

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