Roland Michell is an American scholar trying to make it in the difficult world of British Academia. He has yet to break out from under his mentor's shadow until he finds a pair of love letters that once belonged to one of his idols, a famous Victorian poet. Michell, after some sleuthing, narrows down the suspects to a woman not his wife, another well known Victorian poet. Roland enlists the aid of a Dr. Maud Bailey, an expert on the life of the woman in question. Together they piece together the story of a forbidden love affair, and discover one of their own. They also find themselves in a battle to hold on to their discovery before it falls into the hands of their rival, Fergus Wolfe. Written by
A large part of Church Street in Whitby was dressed to give it the appearance of a 18/19th century fishing town. Gwyneth Paltrow insisted that the whole place was screened off so that she was not visible to the small crowd of on-lookers. Jeremy Northam, however, took time to go and talk about the film to the bystanders. Miss Paltrow also turned down an offer from the local dignitaries to meet the mayor and be shown around the town. The Whitby Gazette carried a massive banner headline declaring "PALTROW SNUBS WHITBY". See more »
Everyone was handling rare, old documents with their bare hands. Anyone doing this kind of research would know to wear gloves to protect the fragile paper. See more »
They say that women change. 'Tis so, but you are ever-constant in your changefulness. Like that still thread of falling river, one from source to last embrace, in the still pool ever-renewed and ever-moving on, from first to last, a myriad water-drops.
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It needs to be said; this is not a very good film, but it does keep up the appearance of one fairly well, carrying a facade of mystery, romance and great literature. The director navigates two parallel story lines one taking place between two secret lovers in the mid-1800s and one taking place between two soon-to-be-lovers in the 21st century the latter couple finding their romance as they are unlocking the lovestory of the former... through letters. The bad news is that the director only put his heart into one of the story lines, namely the costume one, and as a result, the modern day lovestory between Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart as literary sleuths suffers greatly. Nevertheless, Possession makes for an OK diversion into quasi-romance.
Starting in the positive end then, period-junkies Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle are breathtaking to watch as poets during the Richmond period in England. They are two people who cannot be together, for one has chosen a wife and the other has chosen a life of 'shared solitude' (which is a euphemism for a lesbian relationship). Yet they begin a correspondence of love letters, which blossoms into a fully-fletched romance, embroidered in intrigue and quiet passion. Ehle's beautiful, reassuring smiles conveying the latter. At times their story is achingly romantic, so I think this aspect is very nicely tended to in the film. The graceful words in their letters even invests the film in a lyrical flow of sorts.
For our modern day story, Gwyneth Paltrow plays the icy literary expert Maud Bailey, who is also a descendant of Ehle's character, but clearly lacking in her passion. The film offers no satisfying explanation as to why the chilly Maud suddenly warms up and falls for Roland (Eckhart), other than they they are researching the lost letters together. I love Eckhart, but truly believe he is all wrong for this part. He ends up clumsy and flat and underdeveloped in the film (the novel probably offered more insight into his character, I don't know) and again, Maud's attraction to him seems far-fetched. I really can't stress how bad their storyline is; no description will do it justice.
Otherwise, Possession does a fair job of melting themes of love and love lost as it progresses and it occasionally manages thrilling. In order to get events unfolding, Maud and Roland unlock the mystery of the ancient lovestory by conveniently appearing clues, hidden hatches and notes. It's into Da Vinci Code territory with this approach to plot, but it works to a point. There is also seamless, fluent intercutting of the two parallel stories in the editing process. Neither a very solid nor very interesting template here, but "Possession" does make for a fine pastime.
6 out of 10
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