Love In The Time of Cholera
Review by Jack Foley
ADAPTING a novel as epic and complex as Gabriel García Márquez’s Love In The Time of Cholera was always going to be a tricky affair and it’s one that ultimately proves beyond Mike Newell.
To be fair, the British director has a fairly decent stab at it – assembling a fine cast and employing some suitably exotic locations – but the film feels a relatively lightweight affair that struggles to escape its episodic constraints.
Set in 19th Century Colombia, the film follows the fortunes of young messenger Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) who becomes instantly smitten when he claps eyes on the beautiful aristocrat Fermina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and begins courting her with a succession of letters that she responds to in kind.
When she suddenly decides that their relationship is naive and – at the bequest of her father – marries a doctor (Benjamin Bratt) Florentino is left heartbroken but refuses to abandon his passion.
Steadfastly promising to remain a virgin until his love is realised, he subsequently finds himself sleeping with over 600 women to ease the pain – only to be presented with a fresh opportunity decades later once Fermina’s husband has passed away.
In novel form, Márquez’s prose treats the idea of suffering for love as a kind of noble act and incorporates plenty of social and political commentary as it’s set against the changing landscape of turn-of-the-century South America.
In film form, it’s much less adept at juggling these elements and gets the tone wrong as well. Florentino’s plight is made to seem more comical than tragic and fails to convince despite the best efforts of the film’s charismatic star, Bardem. It’s also a curiously unsexy affair for all the eroticism on display.
Part of the reason for this lies with Italian actress Mezzogiorno, whose portrayal of Fermina lacks the qualities needed to make her character so lust-worthy. But then Newell doesn’t really give her the time to make audiences care.
Rather, he appears to be struggling to squeeze everything in and elements of the story will be frustratingly under-developed for many viewers, regardless of whether they’ve read the book or not.
Likewise, a support cast that includes John Leguizamo, Benjamin Bratt and Liev Schreiber also feels under-used and the suspicion remains that there’s a lot of background footage that’s been left on the cutting room floor. Come the supposedly sweeping finale, audiences will rightfully feel under-whelmed.
Running time: 2hrs 18mins
UK DVD Release: July 14, 2008