Head in the Clouds | Chicago Reader

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This probing drama by British writer-director John Duigan (Wide Sargasso Sea) is set against the rise of fascism in Europe, yet the conflict that drives it—between personal liberty and social responsibility—hasn't aged a bit. A glamorous libertine (Charlize Theron) bonds with a radicalized Irish student (Stuart Townsend) in prewar Britain but continues to take lovers of convenience; in Paris the two form an idyllic menage a trois with a Spanish nurse (Penelope Cruz), but the friendship is shattered when the student and the nurse run off to join the fight against Franco. On paper the story may seem hopelessly contrived—another nostalgia piece for art-house liberals—but on-screen it's presented in purely emotional terms, which allows Duigan and his excellent leads to inhabit and ultimately transcend the period. R, 132 min.

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