17 October 2000 | z2214076
Melodramatic & inaccurate
As a work of fiction, this is an unexceptional piece of melodrama with a familiar story: the heroine falls in love with a man who abandons her cruelly. Then she does it again, and finally dies miserable and alone. Unfortunately, the main characters in this story are *supposed* to be real people. In the course of presenting Caroline Lamb (played by his wife) as a woman wronged, Bolt rides roughshod over historical facts and turns a blind eye to some of her less noble moments. In particular Lord Byron, her sometime lover, is presented as a poorly researched caricature. (On the bright side, the crippled leg that plagued him throughout his life has miraculously vanished.)
It is true, as depicted in the film, that 'Caro' and Byron had an affair, and that Byron was the one to break it off as she became more and more obsessed with him. But the film completely fails to note that she went on to conduct a vicious campaign of revenge against him that lasted for considerably longer than the original affair, and played a major part in ruining his reputation in England with accusations of crimes up to and including murder. Byron was certainly a flawed human being, but Bolt magnifies and distorts those flaws while ignoring many of Lady Caroline's.
It appears that Bolt is more interested in making a good story than in representing the life of the real Caroline Lamb, which would be forgivable if he *had* created a good story. But there's nothing exceptional about this one, not even the costumes; just a run-of-the-mill "woman ruined by heartless men" tale. If it's 19th-century fiction you're after, a Jane Austen dramatization would be a better choice; if it's historical accuracy you like, you won't find it here.