Tristan + Isolde (2006)
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Premise: A retelling of the English romance. In the Dark Ages, English soldier Tristan (James Franco) falls for Irish Princess Isolde (Sophia Myles). Their romance threatens the delicate peace between the two nations.
What Works: The story is very well handled. This is familiar territory for director Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Count of Monte Cristo) and he is able to deliver a film that is satisfying on all of its major levels. His action sequences are well executed and the romance is credible. The strongest performances in the film are by Bronagh Gallagher as Isolde’s maid and Myles as Isolde. Myles is able to take the underwritten part and give her character an arc, making her the heart of the film.
What Doesn’t: The film’s romance has a very PG-13 element to it that makes it appear like it is pandering to an adolescent female audience. While there is nothing wrong with playing to that demographic, it alienates the more mature part of the audience. David O’Hara’s role as King Donnchadh, leader of the Irish, is largely wasted and he never gets enough screen time to be a threatening villain.
Bottom Line: Tristan + Isolde is a competent and fun story with romance and action. In some ways it echoes back to Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling films, with its cookie cutter romance and swordplay. For all its flaws, it does make a good afternoon popcorn adventure.
Episode: #83 (January 29, 2006)