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Edmond Rostand’s classic 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerac, told the story of Cyrano, a man that has the gift of words, panache, and, unfortunately, an unusually large nose. Cyrano falls in love with Lady Roxanne, but due to his appearance refrains from expressing his feelings, opting instead to express himself through the handsome Christian, the man Roxanne thinks she loves. Erica Schmidt’s musical adaptation of Cyrano, first created for the stage, substitutes the exaggerated nose element with Peter Dinklage’s height. However, more potently, internal factors, as opposed to external, hold this Cyrano back from expressing himself. Director Joe Wright decided he wanted to transport Schmidt’s version to the screen, and his instincts to do so were correct. Wright’s mesmerizing visual style enhances every aspect of this story, from the scale to Dinklage’s engrossing performance, and allows this modern version to truly hit home the tale’s powerfully relatable themes of love and pride.

The film kicks off with the song “Someone To Say,” introducing the independent and love-seeking Roxanne (Haley Bennett), but it’s the grand theatre scene that beautifully sets everything in motion for Cyrano. Not only do audiences witness Wright’s desire for the spectacular – but we are also treated to Roxanne’s first time locking eyes with Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Cyrano’s (Dinklage) heroic entrance. This leads to Cyrano showcasing his unmatchable wit, skills in battle during the song “When I Was Born,” an unfazed acknowledgment of his “freak” status, and most importantly, through one brief look at Roxanne, his own emotional weaknesses. It’s a fun, beautiful, and dramatic scene that poetically showcases the film’s underlying themes through subtle, and at times, brutal visuals.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc

Although the film’s music takes some time to have the desired effect, eventually Schmidt’s writing and Aaron & Bryce Dessner’s music, along with the brilliant camera work, flow seamlessly together to augment Cyrano. A brilliant example is the balcony scene, where Cyrano speaks as Christian while both hide behind a wall, and Roxanne looks on from her balcony. Cyrano’s poetic and subliminal words (disguised as Christian’s) explain how he has to express his feelings from the dark while audiences get a shot of the dark shadows Roxanne sees. The song “Overcome,” which is the soul of Cyrano, follows this. Here, Cyrano sings lines such as: “words can only get me so far,” and while both sing, there are intimate close-ups of the pair, as well as clever shots of Cyrano leaning up against the wall as Roxanne is seen looking on from the balcony. Schmidt once described the songs as windows into the characters’ souls, and no song illustrates this better than “Overcome,” where Dinklage’s wonderfully nuanced performance is on full display.

Wright’s film has plenty of strengths, and it only gets better as the narrative unfolds before concluding with an emotional final scene. However, Dinklage’s spellbinding performance as Cyrano de Bergerac is undoubtedly the highlight of this epic retelling of Rostand’s play. His singing may not match a Hugh Jackman’s, but in an instant, Dinklage makes you laugh by uttering Cyrano’s articulate words, subtly showcases his character’s “pride” when insisting Christian repeats his words exactly, and then all of a sudden, he breaks our hearts with facials when Cyrano masks his heartbreak in front of Roxanne and Christian, a sight that’s perhaps all too relatable for some. Through his performance, Dinklage allows you to connect with the man inside, focusing on the characteristics of Cyrano, and without realizing it, making you forget about his physicality. It’s a truly masterful performance that helps in modernising this story.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc

Unfortunately, much like Cyrano himself, as poetic and mesmerizing as the film can be, it has its flaws. The early transitions into songs feel very sudden, and the songs themselves aren’t allowed to settle as they’re too quick, or they cut to dialogue portions midsong one too many times. Most notably, this occurs with Dinklage’s solo, “Your Name,” a great song that is, unfortunately, given no room to breathe. In addition to this, Cyrano also tends to be a little on the nose when hitting home some of its themes and messages.

Ultimately, though, Wright and co. have delivered a fitting and brilliantly updated version of this evergreen romantic tale that’s powerfully, and at times, painfully relatable. Cyrano has already popped up in the awards season with various nominations, and every nomination and potential award is richly deserved for this simply beautiful piece of cinema.

Cyrano is in cinemas on February 25th

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