Now be patient with this one. Admittedly, the thought of Helena Bonham Carter, high-society ladies, corsets, tea, vicars, la-de-da and pastel-coloured landscapes isn't too enticing. But Hossein Amini's adaptation of the Henry James novel couldn't be further from Merchant Ivory, frilly frocks and white-painted gazebo tradition.
Devoid of predictable humour and easy caricature, the film's main triumph is director Iain Softley's (Backbeat, Hackers) insistence on detailing each of the main character's complexities, instead of cranking out a Victorian clone that's easy on the eye. Of course, there's a price to be paid for this attention to detail - the first half-hour is painfully slow, as Softley concentrates on developing the beliefs and motivations for the ensemble cast.
It might still sound like heavyweight film-making (Sense&Sensibility with attitude), but Softley still makes The Wings Of A Dove an engaging and very watchable movie. He gives it a magical, dream-like vibe by weaving exquisitely photographed images into the narrative and, before you know it (and if you're willing), you'll forget you're watching a costume drama and start wishing that all character-driven films could imitate this clever, insightful grasp of relationships.
Roache (Priest, No Surrender) is suitably uptight as the toff-enamoured Merton, while Elliott (The Spitfire Grill) delivers a sensitive and fluid portrayal of Millie. But it's Bonham Carter who excels, proving that she's come far since her peevish A Room With A View days, wallowing in a character who oozes emotion and soulful glances
The Wings Of A Dove isn't without its surprises. The penultimate scene features a steamy romp between Kate and Merton, capturing an intensity comparable to the body-rubbing in Last Tango In Paris. If that doesn't convince you, insiders say it's in the running for a bag of Oscar nominations. So it's worthy and good...