Possession (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/10/2002

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 102 mins

Admirable, but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to bring Byatt’s “unfilmable” novel to the screen – it’s beautiful to look at, but ultimately comes across as a sort of overly literary chick-flick.

First things first. Anyone who turns up to see Possession expecting to see ‘A Neil LaBute Film’ is liable to be sorely disappointed, as, apart from the casting of LaBute’s regular leading man Eckhart, there’s no indication that this was directed by the same ‘misanthropic genius’ behind In The Company Of Men, Your Friends And Neighbours or Nurse Betty.

Detective Work…Librarian Style

Similarly, fans of Byatt’s notoriously unfilmable book are also likely to be disappointed, because the complexity has been stripped from it and the two modern lead characters transformed into pretty movie-star types. What remains, however, is a competently helmed, literary chick-flick, that’s watchable enough, but nothing particularly special.

Aaron Eckhart plays Roland, an American librarian researching the works of the poet Randolph Henry Ash (played in flashback by Jeremy Northam). When he uncovers what he thinks is evidence of an affair with another Victorian poet (Christabelle Lamotte, played by Jennifer Ehle), he hooks up with another librarian, a LaMotte scholar, played by Gwyneth Paltrow in full-on icy English mode.

More Sex Please, We’re British

Together they investigate deeper, going through the usual rom-com paces of bickering then falling in love as they do so. However, unscrupulous…er…librarians are also hot on their tail, so a race for literary glory ensues...

Meanwhile, in counterpoint to the modern day love story, we are shown snippets of the romance between Northam and Ehle, as the details come to light, largely via letters. Though this is undeniably beautiful to look at, it also seems rather tame – the addition of a decent sex scene or two could have livened it up no end.

Professor Blackadder?

The acting is good, although you’re never really convinced by Eckhart and Paltrow’s relationship. Ehle and Northam are better, as both actors seem drawn to parts involving period costume.

The film is certainly watchable, but you’re left with the impression that it could have been something really special. Also, the “finale” is, frankly, rather ridiculous. And it was probably a bad idea to stick with the name “Professor Blackadder”.

In short, Possession is by no means awful, but will probably find its natural home on video as a sort of rainy Sunday afternoon film for people who have worn out their video copies of Pride and Prejudice.

Film Trailer

Possession (12)
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Content updated: 23/07/2018 01:29

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