The movies generally refute the toxic bromide that nice guys finish last, but not The Lovers. A dopey but lavish romantic epic about magical rings that unite soul mates, Roland Joffé’s latest proposes that to be a mensch is to be a martyr.
Such is the fate that befalls 21st-century marine archaeologist Jay Fennel and 18th-century British colonialist James Stewart, both played with squinty stoicism by Josh Hartnett. Sure, the two men have gorgeous women hankering after them, but bad luck haunts their gentle hearts: Jay is knocked into a coma while rescuing his wife (Tamsin Egerton), while James can’t help nobly siding with Britain’s conquests (e.g., Scotland, India).
The drama mostly follows James along his journey through a partially colonized India, where he’s out-swashbuckled at every turn by Tulaja (Bipasha Basu), a lady-in-waiting to her pregnant queen who also happens to be a clairvoyant and a warrior. (She certainly doesn’t let a little thing like an arrow shot into her chest stop her from protecting her city against a military siege.)
The accomplished Tulaja desires a man — women just can’t seem to have it all — but it’s hard to root for love to bloom between a stock Strong Female Character and the nicest man in history. Bring a notebook and some tissues — the mission to protect the queen becomes a tangle of shifting alliances between local and British forces that might require visual aids, while the snail-slow realization of gloomy prophecies may well tear you up in boredom.