The film opens in Russia in 1927 as young Jewish girl Suzie (Christina Ricci) is separated from her family and arrives alone in England. A talented singer, she joins up with a popular opera company in Paris, where she meets Lola (Cate Blanchett), who is an immigrant from Russia. Both Suzie and Lola enter into relationships with very different men working at the opera. Lola chooses the proud Italian singer Dante (John Turturro), whilst Suzie is drawn to the mysterious gypsy Cesar (Johnny Depp, sporting that ill-advised facial hair from "Don Juan de Marco.") Before either relationship has the chance to blossom, war breaks out, throwing these ethnically diverse characters into difficult predicaments.
It is hard to comprehend exactly where Potter's film goes wrong, as the increasingly impressive Ricci gives a marvellous performance in the central role and there is some complex use of both music and color. The problem perhaps lies with the film's plodding narrative structure, which reduces the stages of Suzie's life to a series of unsatisfying vignettes. There are also faults with the supporting characters. Depp is disappointing in his hugely underwritten part, and apart from their first tender love scene, the chemistry between him and Ricci (which was so convincing in "Sleepy Hollow") is surprisingly absent. Meanwhile, Blanchett and Turturro have great fun with their roles, but their characters remain little more than stereotypes. The era is evoked well, with some marvellous costumes designed by Lindy Hemming, but this is sadly not the Holocaust epic that it wants to be and far from the film that you would expect it to be considering the talent involved. Starring Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchett, John Turturro, Johnny Depp and Harry Dean Stanton. Directed and written by Sally Potter. Produced by Christopher Sheppard. A Universal Focus release. Drama. Rated R for sexuality. Running time: 98 min. Opens 6/8