1996 Certificate: 15


Director Anthony Minghella's multi-Oscar-winning romantic drama starring Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas as a desert explorer and a married Englishwomen who are drawn into a passionate but doomed affair. Based on Michael Ondaatje's bestselling novel, it's epic duration may daunt but it's never less than compelling. Juliette Binoche won Best Supporting Actress as burn victim Fiennes' firm but understanding nurse.


  • Anthony Minghella


  • Willem Dafoe

  • Ralph Fiennes

  • Naveen Andrews

  • Juliette Binoche

  • Kristin Scott Thomas

  • Colin Firth


No wonder this epic of the Egyptian desert just before and during World War Two took so many acting awards around the world.

Its performances are finely crafted with loving care. Ralph Fiennes, as the horrifying burnt 'patient' around whom the story revolves, Juliette Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas are first-rate, but then so is the whole cast.

At three hours, though, it does go on a bit.

Debut director Anthony Minghella here; he's absolutely marvellous with actors, but his screenplay never uses one word where several will do.

So the film's flawless performances, stunning use of desert scenery and perfectly serviceable romantic tragedy are constantly undercut by a lack of pace and rhythm.

People are made to enter and exit as if in a play - but the scene rarely moves forward fluidly after they do. Still, Minghella does write one memorable line for Fiennes surely destined for screen immortality.

Remorseful over their affair, he tells married Scott Thomas: 'Every night, I cut out my heart. But in the morning, it was full again.' Aaah.

The film won nine Oscars, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Binoche) and Best Cinematography.