Rating: R for tepid sexuality and nudity
Run Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Alessandro Baricco’s lyrical short novel is tentatively re-imagined as a saccharine love story with minimal depth. Sigh.
The setting is dreamy 19th century France, where idealistic military officer Herve Joncour (perma-pouty Michael Pitt) woos and marries elegant and beautiful schoolteacher Helene Fouquet (Keira Knightley) but tires of his lengthy absences and being far from his lover’s embrace.
arrives in the form of free-thinking entrepreneur Baldabiou (Alfred Molina) who
offers Herve financial stability and the opportunity of a lifetime: an exotic
journey to the untamed
One trip becomes another and another and Herve’s attraction turns to obsession. An unhealthy fixation that stands in the way of a free and open love between Herve and his beloved Helene.
There’s not much to recommend when narrative and romance fall victim to convention. Pitt in the throes of erotic obsession is uncommonly passive; his demeanor and incessant reflective voice-over yielding zero in the way of passion, unbridled or otherwise.
Global comings-and-goings and their inevitable culture clashes lend promise, an East meets West drama never fully realized. Production designer François Séguin works wonders with the international locales but pacing is measured to a fault.
Legendary Japanese actor Koji Yakusho offers up some desperately desired charisma and Knightley’s natural appeal is a plus – she sparkles onscreen but who can ignore her rapidly (and alarmingly) shrinking frame?
The intoxicating object of desire has nothing to do but look fetching, which about sums up the entire project.