Gone to the Movies // The English Patient

28 March 2016

Gone To The Movies is a joint feature Kaja and I are doing where we watch romance films and then write a review. It’ll be one film a month to happen in the middle of the month (I think we agreed the third Monday of each month… but don’t take my word for it) and is just a fun feature which gives me an excuse to watch romance films.

The English Patient was a film suggested by Kaja. It is one I’ve never seen before and is a much more serious film than the past couple we’ve watched together. It was a mixed bag for me, there were things I enjoyed about the film but there was a whole let more I didn't. Maybe it was expectations or maybe I just have to accept not every film is for me, but let's take a look.

The Story

The film follows a nurse, Hana, and the badly burned patient she is caring for, know as the English patient as he has lost his memories in the accident which left him so severely burnt. They are joined by others in an Italian monastery and slowly the memories and past of the patient are revealed. We discover he is Lazlo de Almasy and we learn about his past with Katherine Clifton and the mapping of Africa. There is a lot going on, it is a film told through flashbacks to the past as we discover more about our mysterious English patient (who is not actually English, might I add).

I might as well get it all out of the way now, I didn’t like this film. I know why people probably enjoyed it, I mean, it won all those awards. It had to be doing something right, didn’t it? It just wasn’t for me. It was a bit too dramatic for my liking. The thing is with films like this one, if I want a more intense film then I tend to be indifferent to there being romance in it, this one had a whole lot of romance and the drama as well. You have some complex romance that goes on forever and affects so many people and it’s all heart-breaking and such, that’s just not me. If I want romance I want it to be fun, and if it’s going to be a complex story I don’t particularly care about the romance, I just want a good story. Unfortunately for me this film had too much romance and a story which didn’t end up interesting me as much as I would have liked and so it all ended up falling flat for me.

Now, I think this film could have probably redeemed itself quite easily if I had actually cared about the characters, but I didn’t. I couldn’t claim to have disliked them, they were interesting. I could film myself getting close to being intrigued by them, especially Hana, but I never properly cared. That's the thing about films like this one unless you form that connection with the characters you don't actually feel the impact of the story. I was intrigued by learning more about our mysterious English patient's history and I was intrigued by out cast of characters in the monastery, but not enough to claim I actually cared. I mean, if somehow I didn't get to see the end of the film I wouldn't have been upset by that fact. 

Sadly, I just didn't care enough about that character. I think that is my issue with this film. The story was solid, and I could have even enjoyed the grand love affair happening if I had cared more about the characters. I just wish I knew why I didn't connect with them

The Romance

This heading doesn’t feel appropriate for this films. It’s not a romance, not in my eyes. There is a romance, and I suppose the romance is the driving force of the film, but it feels like a criticism to reduce this film down to a simple romance. There is a lot more to it. I may not have appreciated the more that is this film, but I can see that there is a lot more going on than the romance.

My wish to view this film as more than a romance may partially be down to the fact that I didn’t particularly like the featured romance. I wasn’t interested in Katherine and Lazlo and their affair, honestly, if this film had been about Hana I probably would have been happier. Hana was sweet, you felt an instant connection with her loss at the beginning and her recovery whilst caring for Lazlo. I was invested in her part in the film and it was probably the driving force for me.

So… Did I Like It?

I think the answer to this one is obvious. I didn't like it, which seems too critical, I could see the potential but figured out within the first half an hour this wouldn’t be a film for me. There are just those films you don’t like and this is one of mine. I really enjoyed the supporting cast of characters and was disappointed that Lazlo and Katherine ended up taking the starring roles when they weren’t the ones I wanted to watch.

Isn’t it strange the characters you choose to make a connection with when watching a film? It’s much like in books when you cling to that hilarious secondary character who doesn’t get enough of a storyline but you utterly adore anyway. That is what this film was like for me, I was clinging to those supporting characters who didn’t get enough story to keep me watching.

Join us next month when Kaja and I will be watching and reviewing Dirty Dancing. That one is an old favourite so a much more upbeat review of that one will occur.

Have you ever found yourself watching a celebrated film and found yourself confused as to what everyone else sees in it? And have you watched any films where you are more interested in the supporting cast than your main characters?
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