The 1990s brought a number of films about forbidden romance in Victorian society. Apart from the contributions of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, as well as Titanic and The Wings of the Dove, there was this beautifully acted, impeccably directed effort from Martin Scorsese. Repression and sexual longing are the order of the day, but Scorsese is too clever a filmmaker to allow Edith Wharton's themes of sacrifice and passion to lead him into melodrama. The film is about those things, but it is also a story about social and familial responsibility, one of the very few of its type in which the conventions of the time don't seem laughably hypocritical. These people are indeed playing emotional chess, and they are being very careful, because every move means a loss of one form or another. The cast is terrific and the production design is gorgeous, but -- like many of the public charades its characters are forced to enact -- there is more to this film than appearances.
by Robert Firsching review