Rival academics Maud and Roland discover an illicit affair between illustrious Victorian poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. A race ensues, complicated by ambition and passion.
Neil LaBute's adaptation of A.S. Byatt's Booker Prize-winning novel has this going for it: it's full of good-looking men (Eckhart looks more like a lumberjack than a guy who hangs around library basements). The film is handsome, too, with historical clues strewn between Yorkshire and Brittany.
But its script problems (not solved by reshoots after principal photography wrapped back in 2000) are evident in its heavy-handed struggle to persuade us that rooting around in filing cabinets is an exciting pastime.
The film needs pace, and the passion overtaking Maud and Roland doesn't convince. Cuts from Ash and his muse in 1859 to their modern day grave robbers are sometimes self-consciously staged. Incidentally, they should have changed Professor Blackadder's name.
Its not unenjoyable, but is too obviously literary, with voiceovers of crumbling love letters supplemented by faux Victorian poesie that would make Tennyson and Browning blush.