Distributed by Miramax
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
COLD MOUNTAIN, based on Charles Frazier's 1997 novel, could very well be the Best Picture of 2003. A hauntingly romantic story, this subtle and moving film tells the story of W. P. Inman (Jude Law), a backwoods carpenter turned Confederate soldier, and Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), a genteel young lady from Charleston.
Ada moves to a village on Cold Mountain with her father, Reverend Monroe (Donald Sutherland), where she meets Inman, a carpenter working on the new church building. Ada is instantly attracted to the shy woodsman who hardly says anything, but speaks volumes with a look.
Inman doesn't know the right words to speak to a delicate southern beauty like Ada. With only a few brief encounters and a heart-stopping good-bye kiss, Inman goes off to fight for the southern cause. Ada and Inman begin corresponding, but soon Ada is left to wonder what has become of him. When her father dies and Ada falls on hard times, her neighbor, Sally (Kathy Baker) sends a feisty drifter, Ruby Thewes (Renee Zellweger) to help her survive. Penniless and alone, Ada undergoes a transformation under Ruby's tutelage, learning self-reliance.
Critically wounded during the siege of Petersburg, Inman lies dying in the hospital. A volunteer nurse reads one of Ada's letters to him, imploring him to 'stop fighting and come home to me.' Soul-weary, with a festering wound, Inman fights to live. When he has recovered enough to walk, he slips out of the hospital in the middle of the night and begins a 300 mile journey home to Ada.
Profound, powerful and filled with pathos, COLD MOUNTAIN is my favorite movie of the year. The film's introduction begins by alternating between Inman during scenes of war and flashbacks to their first meeting. The battle scenes are graphic and grim, following the true accounts of a horrific battle called the Siege of Petersburg. Deeply romantic, Law is mesmerizing expressing his feelings for Ada through longing looks and clumsy words. Kidman deftly captures Ada's delicacy, and her voice is haunting while narrating the poetically beautiful letters of a gentler time.
This beautifully told tale features many outstanding performances. Renee Zellweger's portrayal of Ruby provides the film with a bit of comic relief. I loved her first scene when she rings the neck of the devilish rooster that has been harassing Ada. Three cameo roles worthy of note are characters Inman encounters on his odyssey homeward: a disgraced minister, Reverend Veasey (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a brilliant performance; Junior (Giovanni Ribisi), a redneck who runs a backwoods brothel - he was perfectly despicable; and Sara (Natalie Portman), a helpless widow with a baby, so authentically portrayed I hardly recognized her. The film also features singer Jack White from the musical duo White Stripes in the role of Georgia, an itinerant musician and Ruby's love interest.
COLD MOUNTAIN was filmed in Romania, and outstandingly adapted and directed by Anthony Minghella (THE ENGLISH PATIENT, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY). The soundtrack features wonderfully authentic bluegrass music produced by T-Bone Burnett (O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU) with performances by Jack White and Alison Krauss. Rated R for nudity and violence. Running time: 155 minutes.
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