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Actress makes film memorable

13 January 2006   |   Written by Moira Macdonald

Remember the name Sophia Myles. While “Tristan & Isolde,” a competent but uninspired film version of the legendary medieval romance, will likely fade from theaters and memories quickly, Myles’ lovely face and spirited performance should linger.

Like Kate Winslet, whom the apple-cheeked Myles greatly resembles, this young British actress is a passionate presence on screen. Her Isolde, an Irish princess in the throes of a forbidden affair with a British warrior (James Franco), is ready to give up everything for love; her round eyes fix on Tristan, as if the world begins and ends with him.

Kevin Reynolds’ film is more than a little reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Middle Ages epic “Kingdom of Heaven,” and that’s to be expected: Scott, an executive producer of the film, has nurtured “Tristan & Isolde” as a pet project. But Reynolds’ “Tristan” has some of the same flaws as Scott’s “Heaven”: a pretty but enigmatic central male character and a string of ill-defined battle scenes in which it’s not always clear who’s fighting whom.

Despite its historical context, “Tristan & Isolde” is more love story than history lesson, and that helps it along. The chemistry between Franco and Myles is undeniable, despite the sometimes lame dialogue they’re given. (Sample pillow talk: Tristan asks, “How do you feel?” and Isolde says, “I don’t know.” Cue the sunset.) And the film, much of which was shot on the rugged west coast of Ireland, has a dark elegance.

It’s not a great film, but it could well be remembered years from now, when Sophia Myles’ name