Set in both contemporary and Victorian England, POSSESSION, directed by Neil LaBute, begins with Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhart), a laid-back American studying the renowned Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam) on a fellowship. When Roland discovers what may be a love letter from Ash, a supposedly devoted husband, to the reclusive poet Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle), he recognises that he\'s on to a big literary discovery. Enlisting the help of skeptical British academic Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow), Roland embarks on journey to discover more about the link between the two revered poets. As Roland and Maud track Ash and LaMotte\'s elusive romance across the British countryside, the two scholars begin a relationship of their own.
 

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The past will connect them. The passion will possess them.

Possession takes place within two distinct eras. In contemporary London visiting American scholar Roland, Aaron Eckhardt, is researching the life of the Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash when he stumbles on the draft of a letter written by Ash indicating that he might have had an affair with fellow poet Christabel LaMotte. As Roland delves into the possible truth of this scandal he meets up with LaMotte expert Dr. Maud Bailey, Gwyneth Paltrow, who\'s actually a descendant of LaMotte. She\'s reluctant to move away from her idea of her ancestor as a committed feminist and lesbian. The film moves between the contemporary complexities of the relationship between Roland and Maud to the very different constraints of Victorian times when the romance flowers between Ash, Jeremy Northam and Christabel, Jennifer Ehle. Possession was such a terrific book, its literary detective story was rich, erudite, philosophical, full of detail and subtlety. It\'s difficult for a film to achieve all that. However the choice of Neil LaBute as director doesn\'t help. He\'s working within a culture that is so much in contrast to the harsh and cynical world of his own films like In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbours and even Nurse Betty to a certain extent. It\'s interesting that the one performance that works in the film is the one by Aaron Eckhardt, a friend and colleage whom LaBute has included in all his films. But Jeremy Northam is totally wet as Ash, Jennifer Ehle irritatingly simpering and smug as Christabel and there\'s not a spark of magic between Eckhardt and the English accented and rather arch Paltrow. This film missed by a long way for me, but then I had high expectations because of the book.Comments by David StrattonMaybe Neil LaBute wasn\'t the ideal choice to direct this film, which needed a more delicate, inventive touch and better casting. Aaron Eckhardt is all wrong as the American researcher in England and his romance with Gwyneth Paltrow isn\'t a very interesting one. The period scenes are better, with Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle more attractive lovers. There are dazzling moments as, in one shot, the camera pans from the past to the present, but there are too many holes in the plot and the film isn\'t as charming as it thinks it is.