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A film by Anthony Minghella

Anthony Minghella is the Award Winning director of The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley , but as strong as his credentials are, having seen both of those movies the Anthony Minghella name is not enough to bring me to the theatre. Despite The English Patient winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, both of those movies had a cold emotional tone which made it nearly impossible to connect with any of the characters. This seemed to be a recurring theme with Minghella, and while his films have been technically proficient, up until this point, they have not done much for me and I have not enjoyed his movies. This has changed with Cold Mountain .

Cold Mountain is based on the bestselling novel by Charles Frazier, and while the novel is suburb, I was not certain how well it would translate to the screen. It is set during the Civil War. Inman (Jude Law) is a Confederate soldier from North Carolina. He is wounded during the war, and when he is read a letter asking him to come home, he deserts and has a long journey home, trying to return to his love, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman). This is the basic premise of the movie, but there is much more going on in this film.

For the first hour or so of this movie, Anthony Minghella intercuts the story of Inman in the Civil War with Ada Monroe first arriving in Cold Mountain with her father, the Reverend Monroe (Donald Sutherland). Ada is a sophisticated city girl with no knowledge of the earthy, simple skills that are essential for survival in rural Cold Mountain. Her father is ailing, and when he dies, Ada is left alone to care for the farm and to take care of herself. Before her father passes away, however, Minghella shows us how Ada and Inman meet and fall for each other. Inman is already away fighting when the Reverend dies. It is Ada s letter that compels Inman to return home.

Ada is alone on her farm and she is struggling to even survive, and she would not even do that much if it wasn t for the generosity of her neighbors. They give her food, and though she is embarrassed to accept it, she has no choice. It is when Ada thinks she is at the end of her rope, she is given redemption embodied by Ruby Thewes (Renee Zellweger). Ruby is the ultimate provincial woman, a woman who can work like a man and knows everything that Ada does not. Ruby works with (but not for) Ada. She will only accept a place to sleep and food to eat, but no wages as she has no need of money. It is Ruby who reshapes Ada s farm and brings Ada back to life again, although to a life that Ada never knew before.

These scenes are intercut with Inman s return journey. He encounters a variety of people, some friendly, some try to imprison Inman for desertion, some who are looking for a life they have lost, and they all shape his journey. There are two people who, while they may not have the largest impact on Inman, they are the most notable and interesting as characters. The first is a disgraced preacher named Veasey (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Inman involved himself in Veasey s life (for a reason which I will not spoil), and Veasey attaches himself to Inman for a time. He is both entertaining as well a foil for Inman. Inman is not a talkative man, and Veasey serves this role perfectly. The other is a woman named Sara (Natalie Portman). Sara is a young Civil War widow with an infant. Inman turns to Sara for shelter during a storm, and the scenes with the two of them are some of the best of the movie.

I had said that I had not really Minghella s previous movies because they were emotionally cold. This is not the case with Cold Mountain . This is one of the best pictures of the year and it deserves any awards that it wins. It is a beautiful movie with a lot of heart, and I would recommend this as an Oscar Contender. This is an excellent movie and Renee Zellweger will certainly win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

5 pugs out of 5


Man, you know what? I disagree. Typical Minghella - I saw no difference between The English Patient and this. I do agree that Renee Zellweiger did a bang-up job - she was the only part of the movie worth watching as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, didn't like it, wouldn't recommend it.