The Heart Of Me stars Paul Bettany, Helena Bonham Carter, and Olivia Williams as elegantly posed, upper-crust British folk in stylish '30s and '40s costumes, playing out a drama of repression and sexual indiscretion in the tradition of such literary films as Brief Encounter, The Age Of Innocence, The Wings Of The Dove, and The End Of The Affair. Except that The Heart Of Me's source material isn't nearly as high-toned as the works of Noel Coward, Edith Wharton, Henry James, or Graham Greene. It's the 1953 Rosamond Lehmann bodice-ripper The Echoing Grove, which screenwriter Lucinda Coxon and director Thaddeus O'Sullivan have turned into a clean, tasteful drama (sex scenes aside) that's designed to attract Anglophiles who can't resist green lawns, falling leaves, precise diction, and a clean sound mix. Bettany plays a London social climber married to Williams but infatuated with her sister (Carter). The film jumps back and forth between the years immediately surrounding WWII. Before the war, Bettany and Carter move from furtive trysts to an open relationship, ignoring Williams and her mother Eleanor Bron, who attempt to bring them back into line. After the war, the two sisters reconvene after Bron's death and attempt to understand what happened and why. The Heart Of Me picks up added drama from the time shifts, as the filmmakers leave Bettany's fate unresolved until the end. (Does he leave both women? Does he die in the war? Does his ulcer finally get him?) And though the scenario borders on self-parody whenever characters flip their perfect coifs and use phrases like "Would you mind awfully?," the actors push the material further than it should rightfully go. Carter could play this free-spirited post-Victorian character in her sleep, and occasionally has, but she still has one of the most expressive faces in contemporary cinema, able to register disappointment or hope with a single well-timed brow-furrow. Bettany manages even better, with the film's two most shattering moments. The first comes when he settles into bed next to Williams and sobs quietly over a downturn in his relationship with her sister. The second comes at the climax of the story, as he tears away his wife's prim facade and makes plain that he equates true love with sex, even if she doesn't. The scene is rough and mean, but it's truer than any other part of this otherwise passionless effort.