THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT (2017)


 Greetings again from the darkness. A story of romance smack dab in the middle of war is always a bit risky and sometimes difficult to sell. Make it a love triangle and toss in distinct religious differences, and if it’s not a mess, it’ll do till the mess gets here (a sentiment borrowed from the Coen Brothers).

This is director Joseph Ruben’s first feature since The Forgotten (2004), and he’s also known for Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), the breakout dramatic role for Julia Roberts after Pretty Woman. The film is written by Jeff Stockwell, who is best known for Bridge to Terabithia (2007), and the script leans heavily on melodrama while also sprinkling in some acts of war.

Hera Hilmar (who favors Abbie Cornish) stars as Lillie Rowe, a head-strong free-thinking nurse living a life of privilege in 1914 Philadelphia, but committed to an ideal of justice for all. She meets a handsome and equally idealistic Dr Jude Gresham (Josh Hartnett) who is fundraising for his hospital located in the remote hills of Turkey. Circumstances are such that a Turkish officer is assigned to escort Lillie to Gresham’s hospital. As if enough sparks haven’t already flown between Jude and Lillie, it’s pretty clear that the attraction between her and Ismail (an excellent Michiel Huisman, “Game of Thrones”) is even stronger. The fourth key character here is Jude’s partner, Dr. Woodruff (Sir Ben Kingsley), whose immediate dislike of Lillie is quickly dispensed once she exhibits her medical competency.

Lillie is warned … war is coming. It’s WWI and it’s the Muslim Ottoman Empire vs the Christian Armenians. To label this revisionist history is an understatement. The 1915 Armenian Genocide is only alluded to with passing mention that the Ottomans “took steps” to control the Armenians. Even in such a lightweight and hokey melodrama, an omission like that jumps out. Whether it’s selective memory or outright propaganda, it seems obvious that the Turkish financiers were hoping to make a political/historical statement hidden behind a romantic triangle wrapped in war. The sweeping score by Geoff Zanelli and the beautiful cinematography of Daniel Aranyo both emphasize the romance aspects, while minimizing the fighting and cultural clashes.

watch the trailer:

 

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