The English Patient MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

   If you and your sweetheart are looking for a romantic film and want a departure from the generic Meg Ryan romantic comedy, "The English Patient" could be a fresh alternative.

Based on the poetic novel by Michael Ondaatje, this is an epic love story full of vivid characters encompassing small subplots that finally meld into the central story. The first scene is a mysterious glimpse into the North African desert where we see a small plane shot down and crash land in flames. Before the plane spirals into the sand, we have a momentary glimpse of an unknown woman and a pilot. This scene raises questions that are answered at the end of the film.

Then director Anthony Minghella immediately cuts to a different setting: Italy near the close of World War II. We are introduced to a French Canadian nurse named Hana, played by the wonderful French actress, Juliette Binoche. She takes into her care a burn victim whose identity is unknown. Because the patient's condition doesn't allow him to travel, Hana, who becomes obsessed with taking care of him, finds a bombed-out Tuscan monastery in the countryside and decides to live there with him until he dies.

Although the patient cannot remember his name, certain sounds, such as Hana playing a solitary game of hopscotch, transport him to the past and the rest of the story is revealed through flashbacks. Before the war started, we find that the he was a member of a British map-making expedition in North Africa. (Filmed on location in Tunisia, the cinematography is breathtaking and reminds me of "Out of Africa.")

Finally, the love story begins with the arrival of the English couple named Clifton. The romance between the patient and Katherine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas) is gradual and, unlike most movies today, doesn't "cut right to the chase." The attraction is subtle and slow. A simple scene where they share a dance is transformed into an intense experience by these talented actors. The patient (portrayed by Fiennes) is at first stoic and passionless but this exterior is broken by Katherine, and his unleashed emotion is almost frightening to watch.

Juliette Binoche as Hana and Colin Firth, who plays Katherine's husband, both give solid supporting performances. However, the standouts are Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas. The restraint with which Fiennes plays his character in the beginning is a stark contrast to the fiery man who becomes almost insane in his love for Katherine. Indeed, he is willing to break any political, military, and personal loyalties for her.

There are other roles, such as the intriguing Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe), who is out for revenge because he believes the patient had something to do with the torture he experienced during the war, and Kip, a Sikh bomb-diffusing expert who becomes Hana's lover. I felt that these characters were superfluous to the film and contributed little.

Overall, "The English Patient" is carried by the emotions of the patient and Katherine. Their love story provides the poetic voice of this superb and haunting film

This movie is rated R. All those under 17 must be accompanied by an adult.

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i love this so much!


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