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In mid-1800's England, Oscar is a young Anglican priest, a misfit and an outcast, but with the soul of an angel. As a boy, even though from a strict Pentecostal family, he felt God told him through a sign to leave his father and his faith and join the Church of England. Lucinda is a teen-aged Australian heiress who has an almost desperate desire to liberate her sex from the confines of the male-dominated culture of the Australia of that time. She buys a glass factory and has a dream of building a church made almost entirely of glass, and then transporting it to Bellingen, a remote settlement on the north coast. Oscar and Lucinda meet on a ship going to Australia; once there, they are for different reasons ostracized from society, and as a result "join forces" together. Oscar and Lucinda are both passionate gamblers, and Lucinda bets Oscar her entire inheritance that he cannot transport the glass church to the Outback safely. Oscar accepts her wager, and this leads to the events that ... Written by
The marketing for this film in America was absurd when compared to the real thing. I had seen the trailers, and as I am intrigued by anything with Ralph Fiennes, I took notice. However, the preview stressed an gambling-chance-obsessive fun aspect that I found less than compelling. Had the true soul and purpose of the movie come through in that two minute-long advert, I would have been hooked. As it was, I waited until it came out on video.
My expectations, coloured by this misleading trailer, were well exceeded. The film had to do with love and gambling, yes, but there were elements of faith, guilt, family, destiny and survival that were wholly ignored in the press. Ralph Fiennes is marvellous as a disheveled and uncertain faithful, with a boyish charm and utter purity that is difficult to portray without seeming slow-witted or unlikeable. Cate Blanchett, who has received a tremendous amount of notice for her recent portrayal of Elizabeth, is a fountain of strength, charm, capricious abandon, intelligence and sensuality. Like her minor role in _Paradise Road_, she steals scenes and breaks hearts with an undeniable charisma and resolve.
Set in Australia, the story is surprising, and ultimately shocking in its constrast of the ideal and the real. I was moved, and thoroughly impressed with this movie. This is a romance for those who are tired of the predictable, the trite and the overworked. The scenery is beautiful, and the direction is both soft and unflinching. A wonderful achievement.
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