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"Possession" Movie Review

Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart in "Possession."
©2002 Odean Films and USA Films. All Rights Reserved.

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Gorgeously filmed and beautifully acted, "Possession" is one of the best romantic films released this year. The four lead actors - Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle - so completely captivate the audience that it's difficult to leave the theatre when the lights come on. You become so fully involved in their lives and their stories that there's a disconcerting feeling of disappointment when the credits roll.

Gwyneth Paltrow dons her British accent again as Maud Bailey, a researcher who lives very much by the book. She seems only alive when she's delving into the life and times of Victorian poet, Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle). Aaron Eckhart co-stars as Roland Michell, an American scholar who travels to London on a fellowship to study the poet laureate to Queen Victoria, Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam). Ash's devotion to his marriage was brilliantly captured in a collection of poems dedicated to his wife, poems that are now going on display in tribute to the great poet.

Roland happens upon - and then attempts to hide - a letter from the very-married Ash to a woman whom he apparently was quite infatuated with. Discovering that the woman meant to be on the receiving end of the letters was also a noted Victorian poet, Christabel LaMotte, he digs deeper to uncover just what the relationship was between Ash and LaMotte.

Working closely with Maud Bailey, Roland stumbles upons a secret stash of LaMotte/Ash love letters. Maud and Roland then embark on a journey to trace the lovers' paths across England. While reading the passionate letters, Maud and Roland gradually develop a romantic relationship of their own.

"Possession" is a solid film, which may seem like a strange word to describe a gentle romantic story. However, the acting is solid, the story is solid - the entire production, including the filmmaker's dedication to presenting a film that's part contemporary and part Victorian history, is solid. Whether it's Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle portraying the Victorian poets engaged in clandestine activities or Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart as the modern-day researchers seeking out the truth behind the love letters, the film passionately portrays both sweeping landscapes and intimate interiors.

Gwyneth Paltrow seems to meld into her British characters. As the ice queen turned into an almost dreamy romantic, Paltrow's Maud Bailey evolves more than any of the other three major characters. Working opposite Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart flashes that smile and charms Paltrow's Maud, along with the film's audience.

Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle's character may be caught in the Victorian era, however they're actually the wilder set of lovers. Draped in beautiful Victorian costumes, Ehle and Northam bring a heated fervor to the Ash/LaMotte liaisons.

It's refreshing to escape into a film that doesn't jar you visually between scenes at a fast and furious clip. "Possession" is a sweeping romance that flows smoothly in between time periods. There's nothing harried or rushed about the editing - the story builds naturally and with a steady rhythm all its own.

Overall Grade: B

"Possession" is rated PG-13 for sexuality and some thematic elements.

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