Directed by Anthony Minghella
Based on the novel The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Screenplay by Anthony Minghella
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas, Naveen Andrews, Colin Firth
When Hana (Binoche), a nurse, takes over care of a badly burned patient (Fiennes) she begins to reveal his past to her. Through his look back at life he re-examines the love affair that brought him to this point.
The late Anthony Minghella (The Talented Mr. Ripley) brought a number of wonderful movies to the big screen during his short career. This film was one of his biggest successes, winning him an Oscar for Best Director. The film would go on to win nine Academy Awards including Best Picture. The movie is based on Michael Ondaatje’s novel of the same name, which was originally published in 1992. Minghella not only directed the film, but also wrote the screenplay, earning himself an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The cast features a long list of talented people beginning with Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Juliette Binoche (Godzilla), and Willem Dafoe (Platoon). The film also stars Kristin Scott Thomas (Only God Forgives), Naveen Andrew (Diana), and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech).
A great movie begins with a great story. This time it was the novel by Michael Ondaatje that started things in the right direction. The story was adapted by Anthony Minghella, who did a wonderful job bringing the story to the big screen. The movie works well transitioning between two different times with flashbacks that remain consistent and slowly reveal the story. The dialogue is sentimental and honest without pushing into the melodramatic range. The characters all have such interesting backgrounds that it’s almost unfair that there wasn’t more time given to each of them. Overall, this is one of the better dramas of the last 25 years. It’s also necessary to note how important editing was to the success of this film. Walter Murch (The Godfather: Part II) did such a wonderful job editing the film and often re-positioning scenes to maintain the pace and tone of the story. His work earned him an Oscar for Best Film Editing.
The actors in this film do a great job. Ralph Fiennes had one of the more difficult tasks, having to play the same man in wildly differing circumstances. He does a great job with both sides of his role, and finds something intense within the character. He also has great chemistry with both Juliette Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas. Binoche’s role shows her understanding of the emotional baggage her character was carrying. She does such a good job with the emotional range the part requires. I think that she was the perfect choice for this role. Kristin Scott Thomas also does wonderful work in this movie. Like the rest of the cast, she does a good job with the inner-conflict the characters are experiencing. She also has an excellent chemistry with Fiennes that brings out the special nature of their relationship.
Performances by Willem Dafoe, Colin Firth, and Naveen Andrew round out this film nicely. In combination with the rest of the cast, this film doesn’t disappoint. Although this is purely a romantic drama, the performances don’t become melodramatic. This helps with the sense of authenticity and the honest nature of the story. If you’re looking for great performances, this is worth checking out. For her work, Juliette Binoche was awarded with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Fiennes was nominated for Best Actor, and his co-star Kristin Scott Thomas was nominated for Best Actress.
The visuals in this film are wonderful. The movie was filmed on location in Tunisia and Italy, and the camera takes full advantage of the natural beauty of these places. In contrast with the sweeping landscapes, the cinematography also creates more intimate moments between the characters. Cinematographer John Seale (Cold Mountain) won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on this one. The costuming and set design go a long way in creating the authentic feel of this movie. The film deservedly won Oscars for Best Set Decoration and Best Costuming.
In addition to the visuals, this movie features a powerful score, fitting of the expansive nature of the story. Composer Gabriel Yared (Message in a Bottle) gives this film depth and color through his excellent music. He was honored with the Best Original Score Oscar for his efforts. The film also won Best Sound, completing an impressive season that earned them nine Oscar wins on twelve nominations, as well as multiple other awards.
This is a film that unravels slowly and precisely, becoming a sweeping romantic drama that tells an amazing story. The slower pace of the early parts of the film requires some patience, but it pays off nicely. The backdrop of World War II serves as the perfect vehicle for the characters to play off of. If you’re a fan of war films, drama, or romance; this is one to check out. I would also recommend this to fans of any of the actors. I give this one 4.4 out of 5 stars.