Though I had not read the book, I had great expectations from the movie. Most of us are aware that translating a book to a movie can be tricky. Given that each medium is so different, you could get easily carried away during translation. I suspect that is the case with this particular choice of movie as well. The director Mike Newell certainly risked taking on the work of South America's Nobel Prize winner and one of the world's most prolific author of magic realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and attempts to give the story a larger than life image on the big screen.
The movie explores the love of a man, Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) who waits for five decades to be married to the love of his life, Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) after being spurned by her. Fermina is courted by Florentino for a brief period until her father sniffs out their love story and snuffs it out owing to class differences. When Fermina meets Florentino after a hiatus, she walks out of his life inspite of professing undying love for each other. Maybe this is puppy love. The beautiful Fermina falls for the charm of the well educated doctor, Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt) who treats her during a sudden attack, feared to be cholera which was rampant at that time. Taken in by his charm and progression of thought, she marries him shunning the love lorn fool Florentino. The affliction of love is compared to the death and sickness that cholera represents, it is all consuming and swallows your very core. You never completely recover from the attack.
Over the years, Florentino sleeps with over 600 women, but is never able to give his love to any of the women he meets. He preserves his heart and spiritual love only for his first love. Meanwhile, Fermina understands the true nature of love and the sham of her wedding when she finds out that her husband had cheated on her. When Florentino approaches her once again on the day she is widowed, she spurns him yet again, but turns around to slowly embrace him into her life. Together, they unite in their last days having found fulfillment in each other's hearts.
The affairs of the heart are beyond our comprehension. Love is an even bigger mystery. Unfortunately the movie does not deliver. Giovanna no doubt is beautiful, but her cold eyes and lack of emotion does nothing to help build her character as the passionate, feisty Fermina. Benjamin Bratt has a limited role to play, while Javier Bardem stands out for his portrayal as the idealistic fool in love. The story does not strongly weave in the epidemic with the affliction of the soul. The lack of chemistry between the central characters and the weak direction is certainly a downer. There are numerous explicit sexual content in the movie, so watch out.
Overall, a love story which lacks imagination and tests your nerves.