Possession

2002, Drama/Romance, 1h 42m

158 Reviews 5,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

It's perhaps a bit tame and uninspiring, considering its subject matter, but Possession manages enough romance and period intrigue to satisfy most fans of its source material. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow), a brilliant English academic, is researching the life and work of poet Christabel La Motte. Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhart) is an American scholar in London to study Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam), now best-known for a collection of poems dedicated to his wife. When Maud and Roland discover a cache of love letters that appear to be from Ash to La Motte, they follow a trail of clues across England, echoing the journey of the couple over a century earlier.

Cast & Crew

Aaron Eckhart
Roland Michell
Jeremy Northam
Randolph Henry Ash
Jennifer Ehle
Christabel LaMotte
Lena Headey
Blanche Glover
Toby Stephens
Fergus Wolfe
Tom Hickey
Blackadder
Anna Massey
Lady Bailey
Holly Aird
Ellen Ash
Laura Jones
Screenwriter
Neil LaBute
Screenwriter
David Barron
Executive Producer
Len Amato
Executive Producer
Guy Tannahill
Line Producer
Jean-Yves Escoffier
Cinematographer
Luciana Arrighi
Production Designer
Gabriel Yared
Original Music
Jenny Beavan
Costume Designer
Richard Styles
First Assistant Director
Paul Ghirardani
Art Direction
Ian Whittaker
Set Decoration
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Critic Reviews for Possession

Audience Reviews for Possession

  • Feb 07, 2011
    I'm still trying to figure out what the heck the title has to do with anything that went on with this film; but that being said, the co-mingled stories are intriguing, well filmed and very well acted. Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart are featured as two professorial types (uh huh) who, upon the 100th anniversary of a famous poets' demise, stumble upon a secret liaison between the married poet and another famous poet, believed to be a lesbian. The pacing works well, building solidly until about the 3/4 mark when things get a bit tangled and too much time is spent on Paltrow and Eckhart's budding relationship (in truth, the 150 year old tale is more interesting). Director Neil LaBute does a masterful job of intertwining the two tales, often using the same scene or location to flip back into the past, or zoom into the present. A fine example is having a car on a rural road pass underneath an old stone bridge, and when the car moves out of the scene a steam engine enters the picture to cross the same bridge. The 150-year-old love story really comes as no surprise, but it is well played, especially by Jennifer Ehle as Cristobel, the female poet. As you would expect from two poets who correspond primarily via letters, the dialog between the two is wonderful, full of poetic terms of endearment and that lovely Victorian sense of language. The modern day language used by Paltrow and Eckhart is clumsy by comparison and jarring in its lack of elegance, as I believe was intended. The device of telling the poet's story through the discovery of letters works well here, and again LaBute is able to juggle shots of the story along with capturing the excitement of Paltrow and Eckhart as they read the letters to each other. The film uses a haunting music score as background to the 150-year-old story to good effect, and the cinematography is tactfully artful, not showy. The only real pratfall is the resolution of Paltrow and Eckhart's story line, and the plot vehicle involving the late night unearthing of the final piece of the puzzle, where fisticuffs are used, but unnecessary, out of place, and almost laughable. Said final piece allows for a touching flashback ending that includes a final letter being abandoned to the wind; a nice touch that lets you wonder what may have happened if said letter had been delivered. A romantic film that has a compelling mystery within it, I found it mostly charming and was interested in the poet's tale, even though you could see the melodramatic aftermath coming from miles away.
    paul s Super Reviewer
  • Nov 28, 2010
    I'm unsure if you have to be a complete nerd in order to enjoy this film. I mean: did I like it because the prospect of uncovering a literary mystery excites my nerd-dar, or did I like it because the film was able to raise this literary mystery/love story to a level of true suspense? On that note, it is actually rather interesting that the same good guy versus bad guy cliche can be translated to English scholars; in this case, the good guys are motivated by the search for knowledge, and the bad guys are motivated by greed. On a side note, this film made me wonder about the branch of literary criticism in which the film's characters engage. Biographical criticism functions on the theory that an author's life is paramount to understanding his/her work, and I refuse to engage in it not because I think the central tenet is wrong but because I don't think it's any of our business. In this film, two scholars, who weren't born when the 19th Century writers they're researching lived, read personal letters that the authors never intended for a larger audience. It makes me think that I should burn that journal that I can't bring myself to burn. As much as I enjoyed the film, there are some flaws. The conflict between Mitchell and Dr. Bailey is never fully understood because whatever tortures Mitchell was never revealed. Also, when other characters talk about Dr. Bailey, they deploy stereotypes about gender theorists. However, not only does Bailey's behavior belie these stereotypes, but it is rare that English scholars will bandy about such labels. Overall, though it's not for everyone, this is a very well-made film, featuring two cleverly paralleled stories, Paltrow's nearly perfect British accent, and a plot that will make the nerd in you blow the dust off your Norton.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Oct 14, 2010
    This was a wonderful movie. I really love movies based around history, and this was full of it. Plus romance and mystery. It had it all for me. Loved it!
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 06, 2009
    A nice mix of romance and mystery. Putting together the missing pieces of the past, and discovering a new relationship. I thought the story was really good, with a few good twists. I found it quite enjoyable to watch.
    Barbara A Super Reviewer

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