The affluent son of a London hotel owner, Jay (Ahmed) loafs away his days with deep pockets but no real direction. On a trip to India with his mates he glimpses the beautiful Trishna (Pinto), a peasant girl who's struggled to support her family since her father was crippled in an accident. Smitten, Jay secures her a job at one of his dad's hotels in Jaipur, but her guilt soon has her thinking of home.
The problem with Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess Of The D’Urbervilles was its slavish fealty to the novel. In transplanting the heroine’s tragic odyssey to present-day India, Michael Winterbottom has no such issues, playing fast and loose with the events, characters and structure while attempting to distill its essence. It’s a thrilling conceit, one whose potential might have been realised by a more disciplined director. Alas, Winterbottom’s loose style doesn’t complement the depths of Hardy’s tragic tale, and the decision to let the actors improvise dialogue was a disaster, not least due to the unfortunate blankness of Freida Pinto’s beautiful face.
The ever-versatile Winterbottom's loose and limber adaptation doesn't entirely mesh with Hardy's more formal narrative, leaving this feeling disjointed and underpowered. Nevertheless, there's still plenty to enjoy in the director's customary flourishes.