Love in the Time of Cholera, based on the award winning novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is a classic love story that treks into areas not often brought to life on the silver screen – “ love between the elderly. The story in the movie sticks to the plot of the book as much as it can, omitting only the smallest of details while still managing to capture the lush description and a true tale of undying, heart wrenching love.
The story takes place in late 18th and early 19th century Spain, and is a chronicle of the lives of three characters. A young telegraph clerk Florentino Ariza (played by a new face, Unax Ugalde) falls in love with the beautiful daughter of a wealthy businessman, Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). Though Fermina promises her hand in marriage to Ariza, she is forbidden to marry him by her father (John Leguizamo). While Fermina marries the wealthy, pragmatic Dr. Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt) and completely loses interest, Ariza is left to endure everlasting agony over the loss of his one true love, sleeping with hundreds of women to distract himself until the day Dr. Urbino will die and give him a new chance to reunite with his “Crowned Goddess.”
There are a few parts of the movie which have turned many critics against it, and I cannot say I completely disagree about all of them. While much of it was word for word from the book, I found the dialogue to be a little off key at points, probably because of the awkwardness of translating a Spanish novel into an English movie. Some of the actors, most notably Giovanna Mezzogiorno, seem to have had trouble capturing a true Spanish accent, creating a caricature of the words as they were spoken in the novel.
There were plenty of touching, even awe-inspiring moments, but there were also moments where it felt less moving and all around too campy to fit the personality of Garcia’s characters or the tone of the novel in general. I found this most noticeable in Urbino’s character, who is depicted as being all too charming and romantic at parts to fit his characters ideals of stability over love in marriage. However, the older Florentino Ariza, played by the wonderful Javier Bardem, helps make up for this by giving us another touching performance.
Another shocking part of the movie was how much it seemed to downplay the historical context of the story. While there is brief mention of the ravages of Cholera of the time, there is not even a hint of the post-Colonial civil war raging throughout this time. However, this lack of back story was probably necessary to help keep the length of the movie shorter. The entire two hours is devoted to the more fore-running aspect of the novel – “ the evolution of love over an entire lifetime.”
When it comes down to it, this movie certainly wasn’t the perfect representation of such a beautiful piece of literature that so many people seemed to have expected. This lead to overwhelming disappointment while ignoring the positive aspects of the movie. Newell was able to capture the awkwardness and socially unappealing elements of love between an elderly couple and turn it into something both touching and thought provoking. This movie is the epitome of a truly unique and powerful love story, and because of the intensity of the story it tells, small flaws in acting and staying true to its adaptation can easily be overlooked.