capsule review: possession

I just watched Possession on DVD. How did I miss it when it came out in 2002?

Based on the book by A.S. Byatt, the film was directed and co-written by Neil LaBute. Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow star as literary academics Roland Mitchell and Maud Bailey who come together over a link between the respective object of their studies; poets Randolph Ash and Christabel Lamotte.

The story's structure contrasts two romances, past and present The gradually unfolding mystery of Ash and Lamotte's previously unknown romance is presented as a historical mystery with a touch of treasure hunting that, even with the addition of professional rivals, doesn't get carried away. Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle, no strangers to period pieces, embody the poets whose turbulent relationship captures, in some respect, the marvels and terrors of love. By comparison, Mitchell and Bailey seem like an unlikely couple. But while their romance builds up, catalyzed and influenced in part by the revelation of the poets' hidden lives, the film never resorts to the romantic comedy's tactic of using contrived but comical obstacles to keep the lovebirds apart. That's what I really enjoyed about the film; Mitchell and Bailey fall in love, but it is messy and imperfect. They approach each other with all the fear, caution, wariness, hope, and elation that comes with trying to connect with another human being.

And the film looks gorgeous too. LaBute paints a simultaneously elegiac and paean-like portrait of two, and two, characters, with rich but not overbearing cinematography, elegant camera work, and great sets. Granted, Possession may have a few nits here and there to pick at, but on the whole the film has a magnetic and understated grace.

No comments: