The title will probably elicit the first reaction from you - the number of words, and whether this is yet another Painted Veil, which is also a love story set during the time of a cholera outbreak. Being a period movie as well, the lack of recognizable names might not serve as a plus point for those looking out for stars, but with Atonement taking its own sweet time in getting released here, this movie might serve as a substitute while awaiting for the real McCoy to arrive.
Based on the novel by a Nobel prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love is a romance story that spans more than 50 years, and tells the tale of obsession, of missing somebody, and to those who are sentimental at heart, the waiting for that special someone to one day decide to come back to you. I'm sure there are many out there who are scarred by that emotion called love, and probably be on either side of being spurned. But how many have stepped over the line and decided to wait? Longing for someone available might be dumb, as you should start making the first move, but longing for someone who has written you off is a totally different ballgame altogether.
And that is what Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) finds out, the hard way. In his youth, he is enamoured by Fermina Ariza (Giovanna Mezzogiomo), whom he woos sincerely through his gift of the written word, using poems, secret letters and telegrams as tools to profess his feelings toward his lady love. Adversity comes in the form of the outright rejection of their relationship by her father Lorenzo Ariza (John Leguizamo), who is shrewd to want to exploit his daughter's good looks, to move up society should she marry into a rich family. So their forbidden love becomes a long distance one, and one which plunges Florentina first into the emotion of hope, longing for the day his love will return.
Now we all know the horror stories that come with long distance relationships, and sometimes absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder. For Florentina's case, efforts by his mother (Fernanda Montenegro) to make him forget and move on were to no avail, as he degenerates into a sobbing wreck. It seems that to overcome love once was, and to move on, has to come from within. How long can one wait? In my case, it might be around 5 years before you realize you're a dumb fool, and you'll probably find some means to channel your energies and keep yourself distracted, of which this blog is but one of the by products from my waking from the dream. How long did Florentina take?
All 51 years, 9 months and 4 days! Of course this is fiction, so the longer the duration, the spicier his life for a story becomes. In his effort to try and distract himself, he becomes the quintessential Don Juan Casanova, when he discovers the joy to bodily explosions to drown his sorrows. Yes you heard me right, that's why this movie garners an M18 rating here. And his character provides interesting insights to those who can probably identify with the pain of having being let go and rejected by his first love on the fly, without explanation, without seeing it coming. Spurned by love, his infatuation brings him to want to compete and upgrade himself socially as well, to want to be the best, and liken himself to be that catch that got away. And it also drew parallels to the latest scandal from across the Causeway, that men in power probably won't find it difficult to find willing prey, as some women do get attracted to that level of power, wealth and fame.
However this is not only a story about Florentina, but also about his love Fermina. For reasons somewhat unexplained, her moving on and marriage to a doctor (played by Benjamin Bratt) seem to be constant fuel for Florentina as he resorts to having a stalker tendency, curious to find out how the love of his life once is up to now. Little glances around town, without her reciprocation, seem to be sufficient. While he had wished in all earnestness that she has a happy/happier life without him, Fermina's portion of the story dwells on the fact that all is not as smooth as one would expect, bringing about a litle sense of that probable regret in making the wrong move, and some nagging "what-ifs".
Director Mike Newell's movie is rich in its sets, and no effort spared in the technical aspects of it, recreating some really wonderful moments of the era of steamboats together with an emotive score. The movie also marks original song contributions by Shakira, but unfortunately the few contributions were reduced to mere scattered portions, not a complete song. The makeup was also stunning in making the youthful actors age (we're talking about 50 years, so what do you expect?), which lend some accentuation to the actor's performance.
I thought Javier Bardem was pitch perfect as the Romeo turned Casanova, a pained man who seeks immediate short term pleasure, consistently, while we know that beneath his playboy facade is a man who's been terribly hurt, and is somewhat still yearning for any moment where he can be together with his true love. However, the plot and his character toward the final act made him seemed too vengeful despite his sincerity, in having a sole objective of wanting to put his banana into the fruit bowl. Giovanna Mezzogiomo started off quite plainly, but as the story developed, so could we watch her character grow from strength to strength given limited screen time.
Love in the Time of Cholera is a love story with an epic scale, a tale of two lovers who just could have been should circumstances allow, but had to take more than 50 years to make something out of it, starting very early with being apart even during their budding years. It might not be touching enough to warrant any tears, given the protagonist here is a jilted man rather than a woman who will probably deserve our sympathy, however, it serves to remind all those out there who are still holding candles, while you keep the memories you share, you should not forget to snuff out the flame, and move on for sanity's sake.