Love in the Time of Cholera, 15
Lars and the Real Girl, 12A

A modern classic brought to screen is suffocated under snowy wigs

When it takes more than 20 years for a novel as beloved as Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera to be made into a film, it's probably because the book does lots of things that cinema can't do as nimbly, such as roving from comedy to tragedy, from character to character, and from place to place over a span of several decades.

For a film to have any hope of matching it, it would need a director such as Baz Luhrmann or Jean-Pierre Jeunet, someone known for extravagant visual flourishes and dizzying edits. It would also some need top-quality wigs and make-up, so that the actors can age convincingly by half a century. Love in the Time of Cholera doesn't have either.

Mike Newell, the director, and Ronald Harwood, the screenwriter, have taken a literal-minded approach to their adaptation, dramatising many of the book's key scenes without tapping into its spirit.

The central character is Florentino, played as a teenager by Unax Ugalde, and for the rest of his life by Javier Bardem. In a burgeoning Colombian port in the late 1800s, Florentino falls hopelessly in love with a rich merchant's daughter, Fermina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), even though she seems to be the most wan and sullen woman in the region.

At first, Fermina returns his love, but a shuffling telegraph boy isn't going to impress her father (John Leguizamo), who growls and snarls as if he's halfway through transforming into a werewolf. He takes his daughter away from the city, and she, for reasons not completely explained, elbows Florentino and marries a philanthropic doctor, played by Benjamin Bratt. However, Florentino never stops loving her, even as the decades pass and the actors are buried under white wigs and painted-on wrinkles.

While the book is set in an unnamed city, the film announces with a caption upfront that we're in "Cartagena, Colombia".

It's a bad sign. Whereas the novel was free-floating and mythic, Newell and Harwood bring it down to Earth with a bump. They've made a pleasant, amusing, romantic period romp, but compared to Marquez's prose, it's prosaic.

In Lars and the Real Girl, an office worker (Ryan Gosling) is so shy that he lives by himself in his brother's garage, and runs for cover whenever his sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer) tries to invite him over for dinner. Nonetheless, his relatives are devoted to him, so they're delighted when he tells them that he has a new girlfriend.

They're less pleased when he comes to the door with a blow-up doll, and announces that she's a missionary named Bianca. Lars claims that she's a wheelchair user, which is why she's not very mobile. He asks his brother if Bianca can sleep in the spare bedroom: she's too religious to stay in the same room as Lars. Neither his brother nor his sister-in-law tell him not to be so stupid, but they do take him to a psychologist, Patricia Clarkson, who believes that Lars's delusion is his subconscious means of breaking out of his shell and reconnecting with people. She advises that everyone who meets Bianca should treat her as a real girl.

The premise makes it sound like a Farrelly Brothers comedy starring Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell, but Lars and the Real Girl is a soft-spoken indie comedy-drama with a snowy setting and a warm heart. It's asking a lot of the audience to believe that the entire town would play along with Lars without a single lewd remark, and it's asking even more to believe that those people might come to view an inflatable lump of plastic as "a teacher" and "a lesson". But the cast – Mortimer, especially – is sincere enough to sell it as a sweet, compassionate fairytale about the most tolerant community on earth.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be Lonely Island's second Hollywood venture following their 2007 film Hot Rod
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Day-Lewis stars in the movie There Will Be Blood
music
Arts and Entertainment
Brush with greatness: the artist Norman Cornish in 1999
art
Life and Style
Stress less: relaxation techniques can help focus the mind and put problems in context
art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment