Mixed or average reviews - based on 34 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 34
  2. Negative: 4 out of 34

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Critic Reviews

  1. 90
    LaBute, in his infinite and marvelous wrongness, infuses his movie with a delicacy of feeling that couldn't be more right for the material. LaBute obviously approached the project with his hands and his heart open: Frame by frame, it's a humble picture, a movie that isn't afraid to be an entertainment.
  2. 88
    LaBute likes people who think themselves into and out of love, and finds the truly passionate (like Blanche) to be the most dangerous. He likes romances that exist out of sight, denied, speculated about, suspected, fought against.
  3. 80
    Maud and Roland's search for an unknowable past makes for a haunting literary detective story, but LaBute pulls off a neater trick in Possession: He makes language sexy.
  4. I was wooed by its sexy romanticism all the way through to the mysterious and beautiful coda.
  5. Portland Oregonian
    Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    The highlights are the writing and the performances. There are real laughs to be had -- several scenes end on sharp, witty shards of dialogue. And whenever Eckhart, Northam or Ehle is the focus, the thing soars.
  6. 75
    Compelling material, especially for those who believe that the lives and loves of the dead can impact the trajectory of the existences of the living.
  7. 75
    A lush, genteel romance of the Merchant-Ivory school that qualifies as a guilty pleasure -- largely because of the unexpected chemistry between its improbably matched leads, Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart.
  8. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Nancy deWolf Smith
    A romance, a detective story, a comedy and a fable. Such a mishmash prevents it from being a standout in any of those categories. -- It's lovely to look at, though, and it's ultimately carried to success on the back of a strong story.
  9. What Possession reminds us more than anything is that love is more exotic at the safe remove of history. The irony is that LaBute is more at home chronicling the present, yet that's where this movie falls apart.
  10. 63
    It is entertaining enough to send intelligent viewers (but only the intelligent ones) in search of the book.
  11. Possession needs a sharp eye, a wicked tongue, less reverence and much more of its author's voice.
  12. Some books just aren't meant to be movies -- what once was confidently distinguished now seems merely average and a tiny bit desperate.
  13. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    A wee, breezy thing with painterly cinematography (by Jean Yves Escoffier) and with actors who are mostly fun to watch. It sails by in 103 minutes and the clunky stuff isn't painful, which makes a change from LaBute's usual grueling studies in human callousness and depravity.
  14. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    LaBute has had middling success at best, having come up with a passably engaging time-jumping romantic melodrama that at least grapples seriously with one of the novel's most potent themes.
  15. 60
    Ultimately comes off as so restrained as to be detached and almost as chilly as LaBute's darker films -- not exactly what one would want from a story about a love so strong that it echoes through the ages.
  16. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    When Possession finds its true home, lodging in the convulsive certitude of Victorian romance, it does indeed catch fire -- and warms any viewer in the mood for love.
  17. The film wants to be "The English Patient" but doesn't have the elements that made that film a classic: sensitivity, perfect casting, a unique visual style and, underlying its grand action romance, a stubborn sense of honesty.
  18. The film is by no means a disaster. Possession is prettily performed, prettily put-together. Yet, for a story set so firmly in the center of a fire, LaBute and his players have suited themselves in some mighty flame-retardant threads.
  19. An intelligent literary mystery story that holds interest and is intermittently affecting, but it never soars.
  20. The movie is intelligent yet lifeless; it's all wisps and abstractions.
  21. Baltimore Sun
    Reviewed by: Chris Kaltenbach
    It's unfortunate that none of the principal actors is able to convey the passion the characters are supposed to have for each other.
  22. The real problem isn't with the actors, it's with 1) the source material, a highfalutin romance novel with a clever literary conceit, and 2) LaBute's clumsy, uncomfortable efforts to telescope Byatt's book into a workable movie.
  23. New Times (L.A.)
    Reviewed by: Andy Klein
    The cold distance that LaBute brings to the material keeps the viewer at arms' length.
  24. Possession is in the end an honorable, interesting failure. It falls far short of poetry, but it's not bad prose.
  25. 50
    For a film that depends so much on the interaction between words and passion -- and the drama of how each shapes the other -- the shortage of both leaves Possession looking like nothing more than an "Indiana Jones" in which card catalogs stand in for treasure maps, and footnotes for bullwhips.
  26. L.A. Weekly
    Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    Watching Possession is a movie experience not much deeper than you'd get on your couch watching Masterpiece Theater or Mystery! -- pleasant enough, but oh so soft.
  27. 40
    Possession suffers from insufficient nastiness.
  28. "In the Company of Men," "Your Friends & Neighbors," and "The Shape of Things," at least held you. Possession piddles away as you're watching it.
  29. LaBute can't avoid a fatal mistake in the modern era: He's changed the male academic from a lower-class Brit to an American, a choice that upsets the novel's exquisite balance and shreds the fabric of the film, corrupting all of LaBute's good work and robbing it of the impact it would otherwise have.
  30. 40
    Purely literary stuff that's always the first to go whenever a book is adapted for the screen. Unfortunately, as this thin and entirely ill-conceived adaptation from director Neil LaBute demonstrates, that stuff happens to be the lifeblood of Byatt's wonderful book.
  31. Newsweek
    Reviewed by: Jeff Giles
    Neil LaBute’s Possession is bad, but not spectacularly bad, which is disappointing.
  32. 30
    What's supposed to be a deep examination of the transcendence of love and art and poetry turns into another shallow film about how repressed the British are.
  33. The problem with Possession isn't that it's filmed in a lackluster way, but that it shouldn't have been filmed at all. Byatt's novel is an adventure in language, telling its story through a kaleidoscopic array of Victorian-style poetry and prose, alongside gripping accounts of the characters' activities and escapades.
  34. How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

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