by Natasha Theobald
This movie combines equal parts sexual tension and real tension, based on fear, to achieve a complex story about leaving the boundaries of normalcy and choosing to risk the unknown. Some lines, once crossed, cannot be retraced. Some lives, once changed, will not be saved. Which knows better, the head or the heart?Rachel (Julia Ormond) is at the end of her marriage, having been betrayed by an infidelity. She decides to supplement her teaching income and fill some of her empty time by working two days a week at the local jail as a dentist. She is ready for something new in her life and faces the fresh challenge with a mixture of trepidation and resolve.
"Forbidden stuff is really hot!"
On her first day taking patients, she is visited by Philip (Tim Roth), an inmate who has recently been transferred to the jail. While her first touch takes him aback, as it is probably his first gentle touch in eight years, he warms to her. Rachel is shocked when she runs into Philip on the outside. It seems that he is released once a week to attend college. They are able to talk briefly before the bus arrives to take him back. At his next appointment, Philip slips Rachel a note that he has not had a visitor in five years. She then risks her job to go and see him. The first line has been crossed.
With more chance meetings and planned trysts, their relationship grows. The intimacy of their interaction at the jail spills over into the time that they are able to share on his afternoons out. As their connection becomes more intense, the questions of doubt that plague them bring further complications. Is it real? Is one of them being used? And, if so, who is using whom? Added to this, Rachel doesn't know the nature of his crime. She doesn't know if she is being, simply, a fool for love. Then, the unthinkable happens. Someone on the inside finds out. They must suffer the consequences of being caught or allow themselves to be blackmailed into doing something unconscionable. There is no easy choice.
Julia Ormond and Tim Roth are both extraordinary in this movie. The chemistry between them creates a heat that is palpable and takes hold of the audience, making what will happen to them seem urgently important. As things unravel, the pace and music conspire to slowly torture toward an outcome. The interaction between Rachel and Philip is sometimes rough, sometimes tender. It all adds up to a compelling, though wrenching, tale with complex, magnetic characters. You can't help but watch.It's hard to say what might have been with lesser actors, but we, thankfully, never have to know. This movie is intense, taut, honest, and bare. And, if you don't find yourself re-watching a scene or two, I don't know what could do it for you. It may seem a guilty pleasure, but the pleasure is worth any guilt.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1666&reviewer=317
originally posted: 01/04/03 03:50:16