The most romantic film since “The Notebook” – Adam Weeks
James Franco, Sophia Myles, Rufus Sewell, David O’Hara, Henry Cavill, JB Blanc
One of the many blessings about writing for Moviehole is that it gets me to see a lot of films that I would likely not have in my day to day life. Films such as “Enron: the Smartest Guys In The Room”, “Stay”, “Hero” & “Mad Hot Ballroom” have become some of my personal favourites since I began with the site, and I’m thankful that I get to constantly be surprised. With that in mind, I walked into the cinema the other night to see “Tristan + Isolde” knowing absolutely nothing about it, other than it had the guy from “Spider-Man” and that girl who played the blonde vampire in the “Underworld” films in it.
“Tristan & Isolde” is a beautifully romantic film that takes place in the dark ages of Europe, where Ireland rules over the divided Britons. As a young child, Tristan (James Franco) witnessed the brutal murder of his parents, and was taken in by one of the strongest leaders of the land, Marke (Rufus Sewell) to be raised as his own son. Growing up as a leader of Marke’s armies, Tristan takes part in an attack on an invading Irish force, and after being poisoned during battle, he is presumed dead, and his body is sent out to sea. Eventually, he washes up on the coast of Ireland, where he is taken in by the king’s daughter Isolde (Sophia Myles), who hides her identity from him, but nurses him back to health. When Tristan’s funeral boat is found, he begs Isolde to return with him, but she tells him to leave, but to remember their love always so that she knows there is something beyond the life that she leads. When the Irish King Donnchadh (David Patrick O’Hara) devises a plan to split the unifying Britons once and for all by holding a tournament in which the hand of his daughter is the prize, Tristan travels back to Ireland in the hopes of seeing his love again, but after winning the games, he realizes with horror that he has won the love of his life – but he has won her for Marke.
From here in, the young lovers try to hide their feelings for one another, but as their emotions begin to get the best of them, prying eyes begin to use their secret affair for their own benefit.
I’m an absolute sucker for forbidden romance films, whether it be Jack & Rose in “Titanic”, Noah & Allie in “The Notebook” or Romeo & Juliet in – well “Romeo & Juliet”, so I can confidently say that the names Tristan & Isolde can take a firm place alongside them, in what I can easily call the most romantic movie of the year. It astonishes me now that I hadn’t heard more about it, but it seemingly came and went at the U.S. box office with little fan fare despite critical applause. Ridley Scott, who along with brother Tony, Executive Produced the film which he himself was attached to Direct for over 15 years, but in the end, handed over the reigns to Kevin Reynolds (“Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves”), who has recaptured the magic of that project with “Tristan + Isolde”. James Franco & Sophia Myles do beautiful work together as the lovers, evoking all of the classic romance characters that you have come to love over the years, ad Rufus Sewell, so criminally underused in movies lately, is a true standout as the King that truly loves his wife, and is completely unaware of the love that she has for another. If I have one gripe with the film as a whole, it is that the cinematography, which at times does look incredible, seems a little bit smaller in scope than you may have expected from a film of this type, but with the story being as good as it is, and some beautiful performances by the leads, it’s easily forgiven.
“Tristan + Isolde” is easily my favourite film of the year to date, and brings the pain and joy of true love to the screen in beautiful style.
Reviewer : Adam Weeks