Two literary scholars in England (Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow) specializing in separate but contemporary Victorian poetsone of them married (Jeremy Northam), the other a lesbian with a live-in lover (Jennifer Ehle)jointly discover that these poets had a secret affair, meanwhile developing a possible relationship of their own while chasing after the various clues. Admittedly this adaptation of A.S. Byatt’s prizewinning novel, oscillating between past and present, sounds almost too precious for words, but I was wooed by its sexy romanticism all the way through to the mysterious and beautiful coda. Director and cowriter Neil LaBute has a mixed record in my book, but on this outing he’s more in the service of the material than playing auteur, and his two cowritersDavid Henry Hwang and Laura Jonesare unusually skillful. The film departs from the novel in making Eckhart’s character an American, but Paltrow handles the English academic manner and accent with grace and aplomb. 102 min. (JR)

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