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The English Patient

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In World War II Italy, British Army nurse Juliette Binoche takes shelter in an abandoned monastery to wait out the conflict's final days. Her patient, horribly disfigured amnesiac Ralph Fiennes, cannot be moved, and she is in retreat not only from the war but from her personal curse: Everyone she loves dies. As the English patient is slowly and painfully compelled to remember his tragic past in pre-war North Africa, the nurse comes to terms with herself and her luck. This heartbreakingly beautiful film, a brilliant adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's equally beautiful novel, is a sort of Casablanca for our time. While The English Patient has many of the same ingredients—mysterious strangers, shady dealings, and sudden romance set against the background of impending war—it's a much starker film with a much more serious theme than ships passing in the night. In the end, it's a tragically lovely story about the cruel devastation of selfish and ungoverned love. It's also one of the best movies in a long, long time.