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:: Love In The Time Of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera is one of those films you enjoy more after it’s ended. To honour the classic novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the film runs for an epic 139 minutes and this labours the audience. Set in Cartagena, Colombia at the turn of the 20th Century, the Caribbean imagery is intoxicating and highly sensual; you can almost feel the warm breeze as the camera sweeps through the marketplace and into the grand and colourful homes. Sadly, this magic does not resonate in the love story itself.

In a polar opposite role to his Academy award-winning performance as a psychotic killer in No Country for Old Men, Javier Bardem plays poet and hopeless romantic, Florentino Ariza. Young Florentino falls in love Fermina Daza (played by Italian cinema darling, Giovanna Mezzogiorno), daughter of wealthy underworld figure and destined for a better marriage than what Florentino can offer. As a simple telegraph clerk, he writes her love letters, which she reads in secret. Their love affair plays out through the exchange of letters, lockets of hair and longing glances, before Fermina is swept away by her disapproving father. Over time Fermina loses interest and is convinced that her love for Florentino was nothing but a youthful ‘illusion’.

This may be because when they meet again years later in the marketplace, Florentino looks different. Like Pippa from Home and Away, the character is the same but the actor is not - Cue Javier. Mezzogiorno, however, plays Fermina for the entire 50-year time-span of the film, from schoolgirl to grandma. Hats off to her and the make-up artist.

Florentino’s ensuing heartbreak is as painful for the audience as it is for him, the already wet dialogue starts dripping and it does not help that Javier’s delivery sounds a lot like Borat. The story would be more convincing had it stayed in Spanish. The pace picks up when Florentino takes solace from his torture by engaging in a series of sexual encounters, which he documents in a little black book.

In a period romance, you have a high tolerance for clichés, but this film failed to tweak the right ones needed to hit that big emotional punch. And there were lots of scenes that, although in the book, made the film drag.

So you leave the cinema with heavy eyes and unexpectedly the magical Caribbean imagery returns to you like a second wind. The feeling is a lot like looking at photos of an average holiday and remembering how beautiful the scenery was. Better now than then.