Darren Aronofsky directs this elegaic time-travelling odyssey, in which Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz star in a series of storylines about a man's struggle to save the woman he loves. In one storyline, 16th-century Spanish conquistador Tomas Creo (Jackman) sets out to find the fabled Tree of Life in order to save his queen, Isabel (Weisz) from the Inquisition. In a modern-day storyline, Jackman is Tommy, a scientist desperately searching for the medical breakthrough that will save the life of his cancer-stricken wife, Izzie (Weisz). In a future timeline, Tom (Jackman) is a 26th-century astronaut travelling through deep space - and finally beginning to grasp the mysteries of life that have consumed him for so long.
Science fiction and romance collide in The Fountain
, the ambitious third feature from director Darren Aronofsky (Pi
, Requiem for a Dream
), who laboured for four years to complete this epic-sized love story that stretches across centuries and galaxies. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz (Aronofsky's real-life companion) play lovers in each of the film's three settings--16th century Europe and America (Jackman is a Spanish explorer searching for Incan magic), the present day (Jackman is a doctor attempting to cure his dying wife), and the 26th century (Jackman is a space traveller seeking a gateway to the afterlife)-who struggle mightily to stay united, only to lose each other time and again. Aronofsky may not have chosen the easiest presentation for audiences to absorb his theories on the lasting qualities of life and the transformative powers of death-the final sequence, in particular, with a bald Jackman floating through space in a bubble, harks back uncomfortably to "head movies" of the late '60s-but his leads have considerable chemistry (and look terrific to boot), which goes a long way towards securing viewers' hopes for a happy ending. Critical reception for The Fountain
has been nothing short of bloodthirsty, with Cannes audiences booing, but there are elements to enjoy here, even if the premise throws one for a loop. Ellen Burstyn (who earned an Oscar nomination for Requiem for a Dream
) delivers a typically solid performance as Jackman's boss in the present day sequence, and special effects (most done without the benefit of CGI) are also impressive given the film's low budget (spurred by a mid-production shutdown after original stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett ankled the picture). And science-fiction fans whose tastes run towards the metaphysical (Asimov, Le Guin) will appreciate the attempt to present the genre in a serious light. -- Paul Gaita