Cyrano – filmmaker Joe Wright’s latest lavish period romance – is the perfect antidote to the plethora of cynical, downbeat and post-apocalyptic entertainment that has been filling our screens in recent months.
At its heart, the movie musical is a celebration of love in all of its complexities. The Magnificent Seven and Hillbilly Elegy actress Haley Bennett shines as Roxanne, a 17th century Frenchwoman who confides to her best friend, the great swordsman Cyrano (Game of Thrones Emmy winner Peter Dinklage,) that she is infatuated with dashing guard Christian (Godfather of Harlem actor Kelvin Harrison Jr.,) even though she hasn’t formally met him AND is reluctantly attached to the cruel and powerful De Guiche (Bloodline alum Ben Mendelsohn.)
For most of the film, Roxanne is oblivious to the fact Cyrano has always wanted to marry her. He doesn’t reveal his feelings because he thinks his diminutive stature would be an obstacle to their happiness. Dinklage is a revelation as a leading man here, charming and funny one moment, demonstrating incredible depth of emotion the next. An early scene in which Cyrano mistakenly thinks Roxanne is confessing her passion for him, then realizes she is actually talking about Christian, is particularly heartbreaking, as is Cyrano’s decision to help Christian be the man Roxanne wants him to be.
The exquisite love letters Cyrano pens for Christian totally win over Roxanne, but when Christian opts to strike out on his own, meet Roxanne in person and talk plainly to her, she is crushed with disappointment. Cyrano saves Christian again by speaking for him on a dark street while Roxanne listens from her balcony. Together, Cyrano and Christian think they add up to the ideal man. Cyrano’s words to Christian summarize the situation nicely: “I will make you eloquent while you make me handsome.”
Roxanne and Christian ultimately marry, angering De Guiche, who orders Cyrano and Christian be sent into battle in France’s war with Spain as punishment. It is in this bleak environment that both men agree they truly want to be loved for themselves and should probably admit their deception to Roxanne, letting her decide their fates.
The story is believable and bittersweet because all three parties in the love triangle are flawed, but decent, likable people who deserve to be seen and appreciated for who they are. The acting across the board is excellent and the costumes and production design are gorgeous. As for the singing, while Bennett and Harrison Jr. sound much better than Dinklage and Mendelsohn do, all of the vocal performances seem authentic to their characters.
Penned by Dinklage’s real-life wife, Erica Schmidt, the film is based on Schmidt’s 2018 stage production of the same name and Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerec.
Wright – whose other works include Pride & Prejudice and Anna Karenina – shot Cyrano in Sicily during the coronavirus pandemic in late 2020. The film is currently up for four BAFTAs, as well as the Oscar for Best Costume Design.
Final grade: A