The English Patient – is it time to revive the epic romance?



So, was The English Patient one of the last great romantic epics? Geoff Andrew thinks so. “There may have been similarly lush and epic romances made since Minghella’s film, but its sheer intelligence (especially as a lucid adaptation of a quite ‘difficult’ book), its beautifully nuanced performances, and its avoidance of sentimentality mean that it stands high in that particular genre. It is at once romantic and restrained, epic and intimate, so that it never feels overblown or bombastic. That, I think, is part of the secret of its success.” As Helen O’Hara puts it: “I think it’s now underrated. The dizziness and tragedy and horror of the Fiennes-Scott Thomas story still has the power to shock as well as to sweep you away, and there’s a slight sweetness to the Binoche-Andrews romance that somewhat lessens that blow, without sugar-coating it entirely.”

Perhaps, as the film celebrates its 25th anniversary, the dust is starting to settle. And now the novel is being adapted into a BBC TV series, we may find a renewed interest in the film. Says O’Hara: “Ultimately, maybe we’re all just going through a slightly more cynical phase, and are wary of stories of overwhelming love. If that’s the case, I hope we get past it.”

Anna Smith hosts the Girls On Film podcast.

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