15 February 2010 | hcoursen
Terrific -- with one major flaw
This film is a joy to watch -- as not many films these days are. The settings are superbly created -- the green, grotto-like woodland where Irons and Streep meet in the Victorian world of the film, the murky streets of Lyme, Exeter, and London, and the interior of the lawyer's office, for example. The Victorian part of the film emerges from the dawning of the concept of abnormal psychology (just before Freud) and is really convincing. Streep shows us that her character cannot move on emotionally until she has worked out her own madness. That constitutes a remarkable and complex performance of insanity and self-awareness inhabiting a single psyche. She earns the gentle movement out of the tunnel and onto the calm lake. The turbulence of the unconscious -- that threatening sea of which Irons has warned her -- has been subdued. Seems to me the flaw lies in the 'modern story' (as some here have pointed out). It may be that the Streep character is trying to find a subtext for her fictional heroine, but it looks like the old ennui, so that, while her lack of concern for the relationship is understandable, his obsession with it is not. Though the garden party at the end almost gets it there. Were we shown her decision there? If so, I missed it. I like the concept of the 'two endings' and their contrast, but the ending in the 20th century was a so what? The one in the 19th century was complex and included much of the pain that the relationship had caused both characters. A little more attention to the contemporary love affair -- to suggest that it was more than just a romp on location -- would have helped that dimension of the film per se and also suggested what the Victorian lovers had earned within their Hardyesque world.