Many people may remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine intensely hates The English Patient. Consequently, that episode has created two groups of movie-goers: those who loved the film and those who hated it. Once your alliance has been chosen, friendships with the opposition are instantly severed. Chose carefully. I respectfully choose to remain unaligned.
In the film, the present is at the end of WWII, and a nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche), is taking care of a plane crash survivor who was so badly burned, he looks like Clint Eastwood will in forty more years. As Hana takes care of him in an abandoned monastery, she grows fond of a soldier who deactivates bombs, Kip (Naveen Andrews) and learns more about her patient. The patient’s name is Count Laszlo de Almásy (Ralph Feinnes). His past is shown in flashbacks, where he was part of an expedition mapping out the Sahara Desert. He fell in love with Katharine (Kristin Scott Thomas), a married woman, and among their adventures in the desert there is passion and sensuality they cannot repress.
I’ve never been a fan of the heart wrenching love story, so at times it can be boring. But thankfully, there is action as well. The harsh conditions of the desert and stress of looking for bombs keep the story fresh and for red blooded viewers like me, motivated. But still, this two and a half hours of heartbreak and war and sand can become a real marathon.
The camerawork here is beautiful and the cinematography award is well deserved. From sprawling deserts, smoke filled backgrounds, and parachutes raining from the sky many scenes look like a piece of art that could be paused, framed and hung in a museum. Even the few nude moments are not risqué, but soft with natural beauty like a Degas pastel.
I must applaud a certain scene near the end where the suspense and tension is enough to make you clench your fists till your knuckles burst. It’s a scene where everything is at stake (life, love, all hope of happiness), the incredible build up to the defining moment reminds me of many Hitchcock works.
Yes, it’s a sad story, a tear jerker, a chick flick and beautiful. But please don’t torture yourself. If you need a good cry, go for it, but if you’re feeling alive and happy and just want to pop a flick, don’t pick this. By the time it’s over your head is hanging, tears are lingering and your going to need a hug. Watch this with someone you love and cheer each other up afterwards.
“New lovers are nervous and tender, but smash everything. For the heart is an organ of fire.”