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The Wings of the Dove
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Wings of the Dove More at IMDbPro »

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32 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

A period movie with a difference

Author: vonnie-2 from Ottawa, Canada
7 September 1999

In this most affecting adaptation of Henry James's dense and difficult novel, Ian Softley brings passion back to the oft-derided genre of "period" movie. There are many angles in the story; tales of deception, social hypocrisy, conflict between our hearts' desire and our conscience, of regrets, and some degree, of just deserts. However, in the heart of it lies an unforgettable love triangle, fuelled by the amazing performances of the three leads. Helena Bohnam-Carter, in the pinnacle of her career, embodies the fierce intelligence and ruthless determination of Kate Croy, a woman born in a wrong era, whose effort to hold on to both love and wealth tragically backfires. Linus Roache, playing Kate's secret love, brings tortured Merton Densher (where does James come up with these names?) vividly to life. He has the sort of intense good looks and physical presence required for this role in spades; and his dramatic ability shines though, especially in his last scene with Millie, where he acknowledges his duplicity before the all-accepting love of the dying girl with an incredible raw emotionality. I was most impressed with Allison Elliot's Millie, however. The angelic Millie could have been a big cliché of a character, but in Elliot's skillful hands, Millie takes on the luminance of spirits and love of life that grow even as her physical strength fails. The story and the actors are tremendously aided by gorgeous cinematography (especially the mournful beauty of rain-soaked Venice) , costumes-to-die-for by Sandy Powell (who wore that fabulous red dress to this year's Oscar, accepting the award for "Shakespeare in Love". She should have won it for this film), and beautiful music. A movie to be watched in a dark rainy afternoon, and savored like fine wine.

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28 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Incredible.

10/10
Author: C. A. Thompson-Briggs (goldengategatsby@aol.com) from San Francisco, CA
19 December 2001

The Wings of the Dove is an incredible film.

Helena Bonham Carter performs her role with nuances of visage and body, and in particular eyebrow, which capture the essence of Kate's manipulation and longing. Everyone performs well.

The cinematography is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen on film--it ranks near Vertigo as one of a few films which breach entertainment and are masterpieces of art. The Venetian and Edwardian locales never cease to fascinate and titilate the viewer. The final sequence represents graphically the vacuity which has enveloped Kate and her love with haunting realism.

Do not watch the film to be "entertained"--it depresses with little reserve and wrenches the heart. Let the music, camera, and Bonham Carter sweep you into the magic of this cinematic masterpiece.

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24 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Rent it

Author: iago-6 (scott@cinemademerde.com) from NYC
25 November 1998

I can't believe there are only two comments for this film. It's a subtle film and a rare one in which your feelings for the characters change. I have read the book, and seen all the other films made of Henry James novels, and this one is by far the best at translating at least some of the moral ambiguity at the heart of most James novels.

Helena plays a woman forced to give up her boyfriend Merton because he has no money. She meets and befriends a wealthy, but terminally ill American, Milly. She decides that Merton will court Milly, inherit all of Milly's money when she dies, and have the funds to marry Helena. The film is about Merton's moral awakening as he realizes how horrible what he's doing is, and WHO Helena's character really is.

You would have to read the novel to understand how difficult it is to adapt this material, and what a great job they really have done. Bring your hankies for the scene near the end (not in the novel, actually) in which Merton apologizes to Milly. This invented scene crystallizes all of the emotion and makes the movie fulfilling in a way a straight working of the novel could not have been.

Helena is good, but her character is simplified somewhat from the book. I think this should have at least been up for Best Picture. See it.

--- Check out website devoted to bad and cheesy movies: www.cinemademerde.com

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21 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Carter showcase of very good movie

9/10
Author: Sean Gallagher (seankgallagher@yahoo.com) from Brooklyn, NY
2 March 1999

This was not one of my favorite novels when I read it (for James, I prefer THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY), but this is a very good film. Director Iain Softley and writer Hossein Amini made the smart decision to move this up in time to the 1910's, which enables them to get to the passions more than James does here. Softley also makes this darker than most literary adaptations, in look and in tone, without suffocating it, and he avoids making this a film about production design rather than about a story. He does labor a bit in trying for tragedy, but that's only a quibble.

Alison Elliot, a good actress (I liked her in THE UNDERNEATH and the otherwise flawed THE SPITFIRE GRILL), takes awhile to warm up as Millie, because she seems a little too modern, but she avoids easy sentiment as the dying heiress. Linus Roache, who I thought was a little awkward in PRIEST, here avoids the trap of being the third wheel, making us understand what both Millie and Kate see in Merton. But the real triumph here is Helena Bonham Carter, who gave the best performance of the year. One character says of Kate, "There's something going on behind those beautiful lashes," and that can usually be said of the characters Carter plays, but sometimes she's overly detached. Here, she's completely engaged, and she pulls off the difficult trick of never losing our sympathies even when her character does something despicable. And where James sort of made Kate just manipulative, Carter makes her human and longing.

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16 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Subtlety is not dead

10/10
Author: wcb from Redmond, WA
31 October 1998

It's nice to see that some directors still believe that a great movie is subtle. No need to hit audiences over the head to get the point across. Think 'Howard's End.' Think 'Remains of the Day.' Think 'A Passage to India.' Wings of the Dove is in the same league. Helena Bonham-Carter is magnificent as she takes us from thinking of her in sympathetic terms, to beginning to have second thoughts about her character, to becoming aghast at the cold calculation of her plot. No one is good or evil here, merely human and full of beauty, pain, and unworthiness. I loved it. And most of all, it's a moving PICTURE. The night scenes in the gondola are some of the greatest cinematography ever. 'Titanic' didn't come close.

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23 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

In Love with the Memory

Author: tedg (tedg@FilmsFolded.com) from Virginia Beach
24 June 2000

There are two tests in my mind for a classic film.

First, it must plant some images permanently in your life. Very few films do that. Two films that are cogent to discussing this one are Helena Bonham Carter's Ophelia in Zefferelli's `Hamlet.' She and Glenn Close acted circles around the guys -- her expression in the midst of the play within the play is lasting over years in my memory. The whole film revolves around that moment.

Also lasting are several images from the ostensibly unambitious `Oscar and Lucinda.' But I also carry many lasting film images that are junk, courtesy of Lucas and Spielberg. That brings us to the second condition: for a film to be classic, evocation of the images, the remembrance, needs to be multidimensional, to elevate rather than dumb down.

Measured by those rules, this film is remarkable. For a few years, I have carried the image of the next to last scene where Carter makes love and in the act discovers the truth about her love. This is so wonderful, so tragic, so true that it has stuck with me, together with the secondary images, the memories of Venice and Millie that Merton is in love with. I hope to follow this woman's career for decades. I wonder where it will go?

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Poetic, subtle, and beautiful

8/10
Author: Morganna (silkrabbit@post.com) from United States
14 June 2000

"The Wings of the Dove" poetically unveils itself with beautiful visuals and explorations in to the complexities of desire. A tragic irony, with an excellent finale. This movie also contains the most painfully emotive sex scene that I have ever seen; as it is honest and detailed with emotions that so rarely are captured this brilliantly in 'art'. This movie is intimate.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

An exceptional film with my all-time favorite female performance.

10/10
Author: dead47548 from United States
9 January 2008

This one really took me by surprise, in the best way possible. The story is a perfect blend of suspense and romance that is flawlessly engaging from start to finish. I couldn't help but keep my eyes glued to the screen the entire time. It flows beautifully and never moves too far ahead or too slow for the viewer. There wasn't a single second where I was bored or waiting for the film to end. I'm not usually the biggest fan of a period romance, but I was blown away by this one. The score is incredible. It sets the perfect ambiance for the film and makes you feel like you are with these characters. The ending left me in a complete catharsis. I was just numb, staring at the screen in disbelief. Helena Bonham Carter is unexplainably phenomenal. She is one of a rare breed of actors who can display more emotion simply with her eyes than most actors can with their entire body. I feel blessed to watch her perform. Her extreme versatility and authenticity is unparalleled. Her performance is the best from a female that I've ever seen. The Academy should be in jail for giving the Oscar to the mediocre Helen Hunt over Bonham Carter's flawless tour de force.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Great film!

10/10
Author: jnunes-1 from Oakland, CA
15 August 2006

This is one of my favorite films of the 90's. Great cast, fantastic screenplay, simply an incredible telling of a compelling story. The movie moves along in organic fashion, never feeling contrived or manipulative (probably because the story comes from a good novelist). The characters are well developed and make the choices you believe these characters would make. Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roach and Allison Elliot are all excellent, and Charlotte Rampling is always good. I also like the contrast set up with the dreary English settings vs. the romantic and elegant Venetion scenes. I think this movie is vastly underrated and should be seen by any serious film fan.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful and tragic beyond measure, put it on your view list right this very minute

10/10
Author: Amy Adler from Toledo, Ohio
20 October 2010

Kate (Helena Bonham Carter) is a young woman in love with a poor journalist, Merton (Linus Roache). Its Edwardian England and, having no money of her own, Kate lives with a wealthy aunt (Charlotte Rampling) who is avid to marry Kate well. Thus, the beautiful lady will not be free to wed Merton or any man of her choosing, if he doesn't have the goods. They meet secretly and passionately, even arranging a clandestine trip to Italy. Once there, the two cross paths with an extremely wealthy American, Millie (Alison Elliott) who casts her eye on Merton. Since neither Kate nor Merton have revealed that they are a couple, a difficult triangle is created, for Millie also chooses Kate as a friend. This becomes even more complex when the British duo learn that Millie, despite being young and beautiful, is incredibly ill with a respiratory ailment. Temptation arrives. What would happen, Kate asks Merton, if HE romances Millie, marries her and inherits her wealth upon her death? Why, the secret lovers would be set for life! Merton is appalled at the idea of making advances on a dying girl but, eventually, gives in. What neither Kate or Merton count on is the young gentleman's growing attraction to Millie, for she is sweet and funny as well as very lovely. Is tragedy in the future for this trio? Unfortunately, yes. This stunningly gorgeous film, based on the novel of Henry James, is a superior piece of movie making that cannot be denied. The three actors, Bonham Carter, Roache, and Elliott are extremely compelling in their difficult roles and all of the lesser cast members do fine work, too. Then, the setting in Italy, mostly, is lovely, with cinematography of the very finest. Costumes, too, are gorgeous, especially Elliott's garments and accessories. But, naturally, it is the powerful story of love and deception, with tragic results, that is the strongest asset of all. It should be stated that there are a couple of explicitly sexual scenes that might upset a few viewers. But, for the majority of film fans, they will be accepted as a necessary part of the story's elements. If you have never picked up this film, don't delay! Wings of the Dove is a soaring achievement that should be seen by everyone who loves great cinema.

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