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4.0 9
Director: Neil LaBute,

Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Ehle


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In Neil LaBute's film adaptation of A.S. Byatt's Booker Prize-winning 1990 novel, Aaron Eckhart (who has starred in all of LaBute's films) plays Roland Michell, an American academic researcher, working in London, who discovers some important letters written by a famous Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam [Gosford Park]). Ash was presumed to have


In Neil LaBute's film adaptation of A.S. Byatt's Booker Prize-winning 1990 novel, Aaron Eckhart (who has starred in all of LaBute's films) plays Roland Michell, an American academic researcher, working in London, who discovers some important letters written by a famous Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam [Gosford Park]). Ash was presumed to have been totally devoted to his wife, but Roland finds letters written to another unnamed woman, and soon determines that the intended recipient was another, less well-known poet, Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle of Sunshine). Roland contacts Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow), an expert on LaMotte's life and work, who tells him that LaMotte couldn't have had an affair with Ash because she lived most of her life with a female companion, Blanche Glover (Lena Headey), in what was apparently a romantic relationship. Despite Maud's skepticism, the two begin to investigate, and uncover a wealth of information about the affair between the two poets. Period scenes of the illicit relationship between Ash and LaMotte are intercut with the contemporary investigation of the two academics. Roland and Maud initially fight their attraction to each other, but as the pair find more evidence of the historical and tragic romance, they find themselves overcoming their own resistance to romantic entanglement. Possession was kicked around as a film project for a long time before LaBute became interested. Director Sydney Pollack originally was slated to film a screenplay by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly), who receives a credit on the finished film. When LaBute took over the project years later, he reworked the screenplay with Laura Jones (The Portrait of a Lady).

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
The turbulent, adulterous relationship between Queen Victoria's poet laureate and a fiercely independent beauty is chronicled in Neil LaBute's romantic drama Possession, but it comprises only part of this elaborately constructed, deeply passionate movie. In fact, the romance between Randolph Ash (Jeremy Northam) and the exotic Christabel (Jennifer Ehle) is merely one of two described in LaBute's film adaptation of A. S. Byatt's award-winning novel. The other, equally complex and just as engrossing, involves Roland (Aaron Eckhart), an American scholar, and his British counterpart, Maud (top-billed Gwyneth Paltrow). Quite by accident, Roland finds one of Ash's love letters to Christabel. Maud initially pooh-poohs his discovery but reluctantly helps him undertake a search for the truth -- a truth that will change the world's understanding of the great poet. During this process the two academics fall in love and come to realize that their romance is every bit as star-crossed as the one they're investigating. This complicated tale is very much at odds with LaBute's earlier, hard-edged works In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors. In fact, with its sumptuous production, measured pacing, and understated acting, Possession resembles the type of movie you associate with the Merchant-Ivory team. The premise is quite bewitching, and LaBute weaves a spell that makes the film dreamlike, so much so that one is actually disappointed when it ends. That kind of enchantment is rarely found in contemporary movies, and it makes Possession a clear standout among recent dramas. LaBute provides a commentary for the DVD.
All Movie Guide - Dan Friedman
One of the marks and pleasures of a talented filmmaker is in the works that tend to break away from their established genre and stretch their skills in a direction previously unexplored. Neil LaBute's Possession fits neatly into that category as it provides the writer/director with some variations on his previous work. It's the second film he's made not based on his own original work, the source material instead coming from the popular novel by A.S. Byatt. Also, there are elements of period drama involved, most decidedly a departure from the modern focus of his other films. Possession is the story of two modern literary scholars, played by Gwyneth Paltrow and LaBute regular Aaron Eckhart, who together try to uncover the hidden relationship between a 19th century poet laureate, played by Jeremy Northam, and a lesser-known poet played by Jennifer Ehle. As they uncover more and more clues, their own relationship begins to take on the characteristics of the one they are studying. It sounds much more simple than it actually is, as the plot also involves something akin to a heated scholarly competition to discover the truth, but that is very much secondary to the two relationships. The film shifts back and forth between time periods, and some of the overall highlights involve the clever means by which these transitions are carried out. The look of the film is magnificent, with the contrast between the Victorian era and modern times very clearly demarcated -- the Victorians live in a lush, richly colorful world, while the present-day scholars work in an almost antiseptic academic setting. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Northam and Ehle come across as so much more believable than Paltrow and Eckhart. All the performances are decent, at least to the point where they don't distract from the film, but Paltrow's character is established as too much of a cold fish to allow the audience to believe she could actually give herself so completely to Eckhart, no matter how likeable and studly he is. On the other hand, Northam and Ehle generate an onscreen passion that appears not only genuine, but deeply moving when circumstances remove their affair from their own control. This is another feather in LaBute's cap -- a true love story from a man whose debut film chronicled cruel toying with a stranger's emotions. Though somewhat underrated, Possession has many attributes of a film that will stand the test of time. Not only does it have romance between very attractive personas, but it also has enough of a plot and clever cinematic tricks to hold interest for the entire length.
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert
It's sexy to observe two couples who think and debate their connections, who quote poetry to each other, who consciously try to enhance their relationships by seeking metaphors and symbols they can attach to.
Hollywood Reporter
Witty, literate and mesmerizing bit of romantic escapism. Kirk Honeycutt
New York Observer - Rex Reed
It is risky, intelligent, romantic and rapturous from start to finish.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Universal Studios
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
Sales rank:

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Aaron Eckhart Roland Mitchell
Gwyneth Paltrow Maud Bailey
Jennifer Ehle Christabel LaMotte
Jeremy Northam Randolph Henry Ash
Lena Headey Blanche Glover
Tom Hickey Blackadder
Tom Hollander Euan
Holly Aird Ellen Ash
Georgia Mackenzie Paola
Graham Crowden Sir George Bailey
Trevor Eve Morton Cropper
Anna Massey Lady Bailey
Toby Stephens Fergus

Technical Credits
Neil LaBute Director,Screenwriter
Len Amato Executive Producer
Luciana Arrighi Production Designer
David Barron Executive Producer
Jenny Beavan Costumes/Costume Designer
David Crozier Sound/Sound Designer
Jean-Yves Escoffier Cinematographer
Paul Ghiradani Art Director
David Henry Hwang Screenwriter
Laura Jones Screenwriter
Barry Levinson Producer
Stephen Pevner Co-producer,Executive Producer
Mary Selway Casting
Claire Simpson Editor
Richard Styles Asst. Director
Paula Weinstein Producer
Ian Whittaker Set Decoration/Design
Gabriel Yared Score Composer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Blackadder's Boys [4:09]
2. The Letters [5:17]
3. The Scholar Investigates [4:17]
4. Maud Bailey [2:20]
5. Blanche's Diary [7:28]
6. Seal Court [2:47]
7. Dolly Hides a Secret [3:10]
8. Creatures of the Pen [5:49]
9. To Stand in a Fire [5:52]
10. A Matter of Life and Death [3:30]
11. Four Weeks in Yorkshire [3:33]
12. The Cave [1:38]
13. The Other Side of Attraction [4:52]
14. Fergus's Fax [13:27]
15. Christabel's Condition [5:11]
16. The Box [8:21]
17. Grave Robbers [4:23]
18. You Have a Daughter [2:10]
19. A Poet Walked Out... [4:53]
20. End Titles [4:06]


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Possession 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the movie in the theater and think other reviewers were right in that Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam had the more interesting relationship. But, when I bought the DVD, much of their screen time was gone plus other things going on that explain some of the underlying background characters. As I watched the DVD with other people who hadn't read the book, I had to explain what was going on in the relationships because it was difficult to follow after the movie was chopped down so much. DVD's usually tell you about all the extra stuff added but they don't tell you when they take away scenes and make the movie different from what you have seen in the theater.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this movie! Interesting, romantic and entertaining. I will watch it over and over. Some say that the modern characters don't have any sparks, but I don't agree. I think both pairings were good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam have a great history that is uncovered in a fascinating manner. But Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart are a bit stiff.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Relationships between two couples, one current, one nineteenth century, are contrasted in this movie, the point being to show that couples in the past were able to bond with each other and couples in the present cannot. Byatt and the moviemaker are trying to tell us that we have lost something somewhere along the way. An earlier novel and movie, Tears in the Rain, has the same parallel structure and is worth reading/seeing. A current novel, Always, also has two couples, one current, one past, although the past couple in Always are sinister like Kathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. If you are touched by one, you'll be moved by the others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw this movie in the theatre and loved it. Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle have sparks between them that Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhert lack. I loved the two stories that ran parallel to each other as the steps were traced back to Northam & Ehle's characters. A good movie to watch on a rainy afternoon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As much as I liked her in ''Emma'', I do not like Gwyneth Paltrow in ''Possession''. Also, Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle were the stars of the show, not Paltrow and Eckert! The chemistry between Northam and Ehle was mesmerizing. Paltrow and Eckert did not even have sparks. This is a great movie and I can't wait to get mine delivered.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie was journey for more than one couple. Although one ends quite sadly, the other is an inspiration for those who do not think they are capable of finding that one person, that one true love. I could not wait until they found the other letters to see where the story took you. Paltrow and Eckhardt were fabulous together, I could not think of two better people for these roles. I hope that others find this movie to be as exceptional as I did. The music selection added the perfect touch to some of the intense scenes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago