Anthony Minghella

Michael Maloney and Juliet Stevenson in Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991)

Michael Maloney and Juliet Stevenson in Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991)

  • Born:  1954
  • Died:  2008
  • Rank:  62
  • Score:  559.75
  • Awards:  Oscar / DGA / BFCA / NBR
  • Nominations:  Oscar / DGA / 3 BAFTAs / 3 Golden Globes / BFCA
  • Feature Films:  6
  • Best:  The English Patient
  • Worst:  Mr. Wonderful

Feature Films (ranked):

  1. The English Patient – 1996
  2. The Talented Mr. Ripley – 1999
  3. Truly, Madly, Deeply – 1991
  4. Cold Mountain – 2003
  5. Breaking and Entering – 2006
  6. Mr. Wonderful – 1993

Top 10 Best Director Finishes  (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1996 – 1st – The English Patient
  • 1999 – 7th – The Talented Mr. Ripley

He started out with smaller films.  He had been a writer for years in British TV before making his debut with the sweetly, wonderful Truly, Madly, Deeply.  He took a big step back with Mr. Wonderful, but then he made The English Patient and suddenly he was a star.  His next two films were big (with stars) and presence and were nominated for the Golden Globe and BAFTA but stumbled at the Oscars.  Cold Mountain especially suffered from a severe backlash against Harvey Weinstein and Miramax, though with Oscars for Juliette Binoche and Renee Zelwegger and nominations for Fiennes, Scott-Thomas and Law (2 for him), there was no question that the Academy knew he could direct actors.  He made one more smaller film, but then before he could move to another film, suffered a post-operative hemorrhage and died suddenly early last year.  He got one more Oscar nomination as producer of The Reader, but there would be no more films.

Truly, Madly, Deeply – #13 film of 1991

“I take a novel.  It must always be Russian.”  With those words, Mark throws himself into Nina’s life.  Not long after that they are hopping down the causeway along the river Thames, explaining their lives to each other.  It is one of the strangest, yet most romantic scenes in all of film history.  It is performed by two great under-rated British actors (Michael Maloney, who I met once in my Borders store and seemed pleased that I recognized him and wanted to talk about In the Bleak Midwinter, and Juliet Stevenson, who is in so many things and almost never gets to play a nice woman in any of them).  It is the astonishingly brilliant and sweet debut film from a Anthony Minghella, the man later responsible for such bigger “important” films like The English Patient and Cold Mountain.  It is a film often over-looked and for no good reason.  It is a great film and one that should be treasured.

The title refers to a statement that Nina makes about how truly, madly, deeply she loves someone.  That someone is not Mark, who comes into her life in a strange way and who she realizes will make her happy in the here and now.  The one she loves is not in the hear and now.  Oh, he’s on screen, and brilliantly played by Alan Rickman, another person who doesn’t get to play a good person nearly enough, but he’s dead.  He’s a ghost.  And he has come back to her, partially for her love, and partially, with his other ghost friends, to watch old movies.  It gets boring in the afterlife.  This is the set-up for a really strange first half of the movie as we see the strong, but bittersweet love between these two wonderful characters who are together in space but separated by the gulf between life and death.

Then, Mark comes to Nina’s rescue in a diner, taking his Russian novel (“it must always be Russian”), throwing it into the air and watching it change into a bird.  This is the moment where Nina starts to interact with living people again and the new start of her life.

How often do you get a love triangle where all three are really good people.  People who deserve to be happy.  There just isn’t enough of everything to go around.  Sometimes it’s love. In this case it’s life.

Minghella went on to bigger things (and better things – The English Patient is a brilliant David Lean-esque film that deserves its plaudits), but it is good to remember that he got his start with such a small, sweet, romantic film.  One of the best of its kind.  Especially for that walk along the river.