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Stars: Ben Kingsley, Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard, Dennis Hopper, Deborah Harry

Director: Isabel Coixet

Lucky Ben Kingsley gets to kiss the delicious Penelope Cruz in places other men can only dream about in this story of the obsessive love of David Kapesh (Kingsley), a 60-year-old college professor, for a Cuban-burn student (Cruz) who is presumably in her late twenties.

'Can you find anyone that enchanting without sex?' the professor asks himself, before they do have sex and embark on a year-long love affair.

David's only other relationship is a 20-year casual affair with a businesswoman (Clarkson), but his friend, a distinguished poet (Hopper), predicts problems with the profesor's Great Love. 'We never see the person,' he observes. 'We're blocked by the beauty barrier.'

Sure enough, jealousy gets the better of David and he nearly blows the relationship before ending it altogether when, worried about the age gap, he fails to show up for her graduation. That, though, is not the end of the story, and David also has the relationship with his permanently-angry son (Sarsgaard) to sort out.

Beautiful Ms Cruz certainly is, and you see a lot of her in this cultured, if rather doomy film; it's her best performance to date in an English-language movie, and matched by Kingsley as her literate but tormented lover. One must admit that the pace is a bit too deliberate at times, and it isn't clear what's going to happen in the end, but the strength, truth and openness of the central performances will hold your attention almost throughout.

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Entertainment. Colour by deluxe.
108 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 Aug 2008