Retro Review: Tristan & Isolde

Tristan and Isolde is basically the reawakening of the star-crossed/Harlequin-styled romance films not seen since 2004’s The Notebook.

This romance follows Tristan, a noble knight (James Franco), and his forbidden love affair with Isolde, an Irish princess (Sophia Myles), during the Dark Ages.

Their love is tested when Isolde is wedded to Tristan’s king (Rufus Sewell) and their affair could bring down a kingdom. How can they live another moment and never be together again?

Surprisingly this story is fun, energetic, sweeping, and romantic. I got into the characters and their dilemmas. I was also shocked when I found out it was directed by Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves director Kevin Reynolds, but when I realized that Franco’s accent wasn’t dominant half the time in the film it all made sense.

I have to say that the biggest downfall in this film does lie in Franco’s performance. In one scene, he is brilliant, but in the next all I could see was the wincing and forehead-wrinkling he did when he played James Dean or Harry Osborn. Then, there were some scenes where he held his sword and I just couldn’t believe he was this burly warrior type. I had the same problem with Orlando Bloom slicing up people in heavy battle sequences in Kingdom of Heaven.

I did, however, like the chemistry between Franco and Myles – there was something magic and primal about it.

The real Tristan & Isolde

I really enjoyed Sophia Myles in this film. Her character’s lines were tedious at times, but something natural, forthcoming, and believable made me really like her. Now if she could stop making movies like 2004’s Thunderbirds, she might be going places.

I also have to hand it to the filmmakers for pulling the restraints on Rufus Sewell, who is very likeable here even if he is stuck between the lovers. The film doesn’t make him evil and vindictive, but he is a different kind of character you don’t often see in love stories. He isn’t the enemy and that is interesting.

Even with all the lover moments, the film does ramp up some of the action in typical Kevin Reynolds style.

So there is something here for the boys and the girls, I guess if I dare say it, like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

The similarities between this film and Robin Hood are interesting but not all-encompassing.

But if I had to recommend this film to someone it would have to be someone who liked Robin Hood.

Okay, who back in the summer of 1991 wasn’t humming the title track to that film? I know I was.

So sit back and enjoy Tristan and Isolde, much the same way you did back in the summer of 1991.

3.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

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