There are always movies that after a while of their popularity start to get overlooked; The English Patient is one such underappreciated gem. This film came out of nowhere back in 1996, and just about took a shot at every single award that it could find. The film had a director like Anthony Minghella, who was trying to find his footing in the gigantic film industry at the time, and with an amazing cast with Juliette Binoche, Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Willem Dafoe, Naveen Andrews (brilliant), and Colin Firth playing the characters; this is essentially a powerhouse film.
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The Movie Review
I will not discuss the crucial details of the film’s plot, or the story points however I will point out that this is an expansive story. It is a large narrative, full of layered characters with individual personalities that are of even higher quality than the book. The film adaptation takes some creative liberties with its approach of depicting these characters, creating a much more romance-heavy and evocative film.
Set in the burning, desolate deserts of the Saharan dunes near the end of the Second World War, a romance between a healer and a patient begins to bloom. The story follows Laszlo de Almasy, played by the wonderful Ralph Fiennes as he is tended to by a nurse named Hana (Juliette Binoche). She treats him within an Italian monastery and begins to learn more and more about him.
The story follows these two lonely souls, who find comfort within each other’s conversation. While Laszlo de Almasy gets healed by the nurse, she also heals her emotional scarring through his help.
The film is directed beautifully by Anthony Minghella, who created a name for himself with this incredibly gorgeous adaptation of the Michael Ondaatje book of the same name. His direction gives the film’s characters an aura of mystery. Both of the main protagonists; Laszlo and Hana have their backstories completely shrouded in mystery, which is part of the reason why these characters intrigue us so much.
The part that enhances these characters even more is definitely the incredible performances by Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche. Juliette Binoche is one of the best actresses currently working in the industry, and her portrayal of the sensitive and caring Hana is mesmerizing. Ralph Fiennes on the other hand made a name for himself through this film; The English Patient was his big break as an actor working in the film industry.
John Seale’s cinematography comes in clutch as well, with some absolutely stunning shots that will be remembered throughout the history of film. This movie was so beautifully well shot, that it nabbed John Seale his very first Academy Award for cinematography. Oh, not to mention, the film won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Art Direction, Costume Design, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Original Sound Track! It also got nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Actor, and Actress!
The Bottom Line
The English Patient is a highly celebrated film, to say the least, and I’m here to remind you that there are many reasons for that. Anthony Minghella’s incredibly sensual, sexy, and sophisticated romance film highlights much of what we expect to see from the genre. It brings a brand new flair to it, and it creates expectations that will usually not be met within the conventional cinema norms. The English Patient is a film that sets a standard for romance dramas, and it holds up even to this day.