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A remarkably accomplished and beautiful second feature by English playwright Stephen Poliakoff (Hidden City), this lyrical drama might be described as a period film about the present. The plot concerns an incestuous affair that suddenly develops between a grown brother (Clive Owen) and sister (Saskia Reeves) who grew up with separate parents; the sister, now married to a wealthy entrepreneur (Alan Rickman), insists on ending the affair after the brother becomes hopelessly smitten with her. There's nothing prurient about Poliakoff's handling of this subject, though the movie certainly has its erotic moments. The focus is rather on how we live our lives—including the complications of sex and the chaos of real estate development, in which the brother is professionally involved: Poliakoff uses the incest theme as a pivot for an elegiac, quasi-apocalyptic, and ineffably sad reflection on life in the early 90s. (Though settings and tone are different, this film may remind one in spots of Richard Lester's underrated Petulia.) Most of the story takes place during an unusually hot English summer, and the settings are almost surreally radiant; the acting of the three leads is edgy, powerful, and wholly convincing, with Rickman a particular standout. The haunting music is by Michael Gibbs (1991).

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