Dr. Maud Bailey Gwyneth Paltrow
Roland Michell Aaron Eckhart
Christabel LaMotte Jennifer Ehle
Randolph Henry Ash Jeremy Northam
Blanche Glover Lena Headey
Professor Blackadder Tom Hickey
Rated PG-13 for sexuality and some thematic elements
Roland Michell is an American working on a fellowship in London, assisting Professor Blackadder. In researching Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash, Roland finds two love letters which will change everything. They are tucked into a book from the Ash collection in the London library. Though Ash is known as a devoted and faithful husband, Roland believes the letters were written to a mistress. His subsequent research leads him to believe it was Christabel LaMotte. After Blackadder brushes aside this theory, he steals the letters from the library and begins an investigation on his own
Maud Bailey is a distant relative and expert on the life of Victorian poetess Christabel LaMotte. It's rumored that Christabel's friend and companion, Blanche was her lover. Blanche kept a journal, invaluable to filling in many blanks of Christabel's life. When Maud is approached by Roland regarding his theory of a romance between Christabel and Randolph, she's naturally mocks the idea. His thievery of the letters from the London library do nothing to improve her professional opinion of him.
Roland is determined, though. He finds references an entry in Blanche's diary that hints at secretive letters that Christabel keeps from her. Maud finds her curiosity getting the best of her, out of character with her reputation as an icy scholar.
As Roland and Maud uncover little bits about the poets' lives, the film shows flashback scenes revealing the truth of them. The romance unfolding between Christabel and Randolph through letters and poetry has a feeling of great anticipation, perfect for the era. It is a slow temptation through passionately written words.
Roland and Maud find and revisit the village where the poets stole away for an entire month together. It's here that the researchers find that there's an attraction forming between them, but they hesitate to get involved. Though each is modern in every way, there's something sweetly quaint in the development of their own relationship as they trace the steps of the Victorian lovers.
The mysteries revealed about Christabel and Randolph are wonderfully constructed and portrayed. Blanche, in her desperation to hold onto Christabel, contacts Randolph's wife. The result is not what she wishes, and her suicide shortly thereafter causes Christabel much pain and guilt.
It is this death that is misunderstood by Randolph, leading him to believe that Christabel murdered someone near to them both. A séance scene is where Christabel angrily accuses Randolph of making a murderess of her, and this ultimately is more than the relationship can endure. Yet the romance endures so much more.
Secrets were revealed to Maud and Roland that were never completely shared by Christabel and Randolph. Better yet, the audience is treated to secrets beyond all of their knowledge. This resulted in a perfect ending to this mysterious romance. Victorian, yet naturally complicated to a satisfying level for any audience, I highly recommend this film.
I viewed this film at my own expense and was not compensated for my review.