Love in the Time of Cholera

The most romantic film this year

Despite its heavily melodramatic structure, the screen adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera is the most romantic film I have seen since Julie Christie swept me Away from Her earlier this year. Set in 1879 during the cholera in South America, a young Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) falls for Fermina Urbino (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), who spurns his love for 53 years until they finally connect again.

Florentino's obsessive love for Fermina is not the destructive kind, but rather inflicts joy on over 600 women he courts perhaps in honor of his true love. While she marries up to the town's heroic doctor, Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt), she appears not to suffer the same withdrawal Florentino does for over half a century although she is never sure if she truly loves her husband.

But I am getting too much into plot because I am drawn, as I have always been, to the vagaries and pains of love's longing, its painful fear of separation and death when one is deeply in love. This film captures these emotions and sprinkles humor around to let us know that life can go on, maybe even happily, but eventually love will conquer all, as Chaucer's Prioress reminds us.

Director Mike Newell may have difficulty balancing the humor and pain, but so do we when we realize how impotent a cherubic baby with a bow and arrow can make us. I still don't know if this film is comedy or romance, but then I don't yet know if love is either.