A pair of literary sleuths unearth the amorous secret of two Victorian poets only to find themselves falling under a passionate spell.


Neil LaBute


A.S. Byatt (novel), David Henry Hwang (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Gwyneth Paltrow ... Maud Bailey
Aaron Eckhart ... Roland Michell
Jeremy Northam ... Randolph Henry Ash
Jennifer Ehle ... Christabel LaMotte
Lena Headey ... Blanche Glover
Holly Aird ... Ellen Ash
Toby Stephens ... Fergus Wolfe
Trevor Eve ... Cropper
Tom Hickey ... Blackadder
Georgia Mackenzie ... Paola
Tom Hollander ... Euan
Graham Crowden ... Sir George
Anna Massey ... Lady Bailey
Craig Crosbie Craig Crosbie ... Hildebrand
Christopher Good ... Crabb-Robinson


Roland Michell is an American scholar trying to make it in the difficult world of British Academia. He has yet to break out from under his mentor's shadow until he finds a pair of love letters that once belonged to one of his idols, a famous Victorian poet. Michell, after some sleuthing, narrows down the suspects to a woman not his wife, another well known Victorian poet. Roland enlists the aid of a Dr. Maud Bailey, an expert on the life of the woman in question. Together they piece together the story of a forbidden love affair, and discover one of their own. They also find themselves in a battle to hold on to their discovery before it falls into the hands of their rival, Fergus Wolfe. Written by C.D.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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


Drama | Mystery | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for sexuality and some thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Three of the four romantic leads starred in films based on Jane Austen novels: Jennifer Ehle starred as Elizabeth Bennett in "Pride & Prejudice" (1995), and Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam played love interests in "Emma" (1996). See more »


When the historic Henry (J. Northam) begins to unthread Christabel's (Jennifer Ehle) corset drawstrings at her back, he pulls each loop free: after then showing from her face forward for over shoulder kiss, shot returns to her back, as he seductively caresses her side and hip - all the corset threads are back to perfectly crossed in place. See more »


[first lines]
Randolph Ash: They say that women change. 'Tis so, but you are ever-constant in your changefulness. Like that still thread of falling river, one from source to last embrace, in the still pool ever-renewed and ever-moving on, from first to last, a myriad water-drops.
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References The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) See more »


Performed by Ramón Vargas
Conducted by Gabriel Yared
Music by Gabriel Yared
Original lyrics by Peter Gosling
Italian translation: Michela Antonello
Orchestra leader: Cathy Thompson
Produced by Gabriel Yared and Graham Walker
See more »

User Reviews

Two Unmissable Scenes with Northam and Ehle
1 June 2007 | by Danusha_GoskaSee all my reviews

This is one of those movies that belongs in a special category: Films Worth Watching for Exactly One or Two Scenes.

Really, it's crazy. Other than these two scenes, the movie is mediocre, with Gwyneth Paltrow's great beauty the best thing about it.

But these two scenes! It's as if they are from another movie entirely, a movie you saw as a child and never forgot, a movie that shaped your adult love life.

If only the rest of the film around these two scenes were equally as good.

Here are the scenes: a man and a woman, deeply in love with each other, delay kissing, for the moment is not yet ripe. They spend time together, including collecting shells along the seashore.

Finally, one candle-lit night at dinner, the woman, radiating the original Earth Goddess, smiles at the man, and that smile communicates all. He knows that this is the night. He follows her to her bedroom, where she has positioned herself -- gracefully, beautifully, sensually -- in readiness for him. His hands shake...

Second scene: a man meets a little girl, and in that meeting comes to understand deep heartaches of his life in a whole new way.

And ... those scenes are reason enough to see this movie. Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle are superb; the costumes are gorgeous; the lighting is perfect ...

And then you have the rest of the movie. Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart play two modern scholars studying the lives of the characters played by the aforementioned, excellent, Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle.

Paltrow is terrific, everything the script calls for.

Aaron Eckhart ... was really good in "Company of Men." Here he just isn't enough. When Paltrow kisses him, and attempts to display passion, you are certain: she'd never go for this guy. She could get someone so much better, and she will.

The script makes Eckhart's character out to be something of a boy-man. Eckhart plays him with perpetually greasy hair and unshaved face. he wears the same clothes everyday. And he's something of a nothing.

But Northam and Ehle, and their story ... for the ages.

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English | French

Release Date:

30 August 2002 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Possession See more »


Box Office


$25,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,575,214, 18 August 2002

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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