Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 3 minutes, Director – Joe Wright
Guard captain Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) discovers that the woman he has had romantic feelings for since childhood (Haley Bennett) is in love with one of his soldiers (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who he begins to assist in writing love letters.
When it comes to musicals perhaps we tend to focus more on the songs rather than the dialogue around them, after all it’s the songs that make it a musical. However, within Cyrano there’s something about the dialogue that grabs you and brings you in. Not even around the love letters being written and exchanged throughout, but simply within the conversations and patter between characters. The style is established early on as the titular Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) deprecatingly confesses himself to be “living proof that God has a sick sense of humour”, in contrast to the light and breezy way in which his childhood friend, and unknowing love interest, Roxanne (Haley Bennett – who appears to slightly jump between a British and American accent throughout the film) describes herself as “enigmatically distant and fashionably late” in the opening stages.
Opening stages which are fast-paced with rapid dialogue and movement as if rushing to build up to the first song. A song which appears to come from nowhere and be placed as close to the opening second as possible just to make clear that this is a musical. However, after this each song that comes along feels well placed and built up to. Each helping to convey a fine emotional tone that wraps you up in the moment, and the film as a whole. When assisted by the highly detailed visual look of the piece – the costume and production design are excellent! – it’s easy to fall into the world and the emotional journey that unfolds across it. There’s a theatricality to some of the staging, and indeed the screenplay. Seemingly, knowingly so. It’s perhaps intentional that a key opening scene is set in a theatre. Yet, everything is caught in a highly cinematic nature, working well with the theatrical elements to make it feel as if you are in a world that’s playing out right in front of you, as if you also have a stake in the drama.
Such dramas, alongside occasional slight moments of natural humour, are brilliantly conveyed by the cast. Each of the leading figures gives a strong performance, particularly Dinklage who provides one of the best performances of his career. Even Ben Mendelsohn as villainous Duke De Guiche manages to make an impact, with generally scattered screen-time. When it comes time for his own musical number, which screams villain song from the opening notes, he appears to be relishing the opportunity to chew up the scenery to create a delicious number of imposing threat and darkness.
Everything gels together well with a fine sense of flow from scene to scene, tone to tone. All carrying the idea of Cyrano’s almost crippling self-deprecation and the love letters that give him hope, as he writes for Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s Christian, a soldier in his corps, who, despite having never properly met, it turns out Roxanne has feelings for. Of course, we see many of the events through his eyes, but still manage to get hints and glimpses of what other characters are feeling in each moment – particularly during sequences focusing on Christian and Roxanne’s believed-relationship, emphasising Cyrano’s own feelings which he has anchored and kept to himself for many years. All form into one during a mesmerising balcony scene equipped with humour, heart, romanticism, pain and a song to further encapsulate such feelings. It’s what’s in Cyrano’s mind at the time, and in part the two young romantics. Such points are carried throughout the film, finely portrayed in the performances which further bring to life the screenplay, amongst the visual detail, and all caught by Joe Wright’s direction.
Once it all comes together there’s a true cinematic sense of theatricality and scope to Cyrano. While the musical numbers work and help, alongside the effective editing, to continue the flow of the film – never seeming to try to be an outstanding pop number or earworm (although leading song Someone To Say – featured throughout the trailers – does begin to rotate round the mind), instead simply working as a part of the film to move the narrative and character arcs alone – it’s often the dialogue and spoken character interactions which steal the show. Although, there are a number of engaging battles and interactions through song, especially in the earlier stages of the piece. It all blends together to create an excellent piece of work that makes the most of the big screen and unashamedly lets its story tell itself and be itself. Making for an even more triumphant feel that simply draws you in and wraps you within it. Much like the effect that Cyrano’s own finely-tuned letters and poems have on those around him.
A fine cast, led by a stellar Peter Dinklage, bring to life the excellent screenplay of Cyrano. The words bring you in and, alongside the musical numbers, wrap you up in the world and narrative, heightened by the strong visual style and detail which simply helps push the emotions which run throughout.