Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage dazzles in superb Cyrano

Cyrano (12a), (123 mins), Cineworld Cinemas

Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage gives a riveting, heart-wrenching performance which lights up the tale of Cyrano in its latest incarnation.

Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac became a 2018 stage musical by Erica Schmidt which now becomes a film directed by Joe Wright with a screenplay by Schmidt.

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Taking the central role is Schmidt’s husband Dinklage, and what a performance he gives.

A scary 35 years ago, we had Roxanne, the genuinely funny and completely endearing 1987 comedy starring Steve Martin.

But there’s no trace of that in this. Schmidt and Dinklage combine to give a Cyrano of remarkable depth and sensitivity, a hugely moving tale of love seemingly unrequited and a tale of astonishing nobility in the face of it.

Rostand’s original was encumbered by a huge nose – the reason he was convinced that Roxanne couldn’t possibly love him. This latest version gives us simply Dinklage’s diminutive stature – and his Cyrano’s unshakeable belief that a “tall beautiful woman” couldn’t possibly love or be seen with a “midget”.

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But his love still overwhelms him, and when Roxanne falls for the rather shallow Christian, a fellow guardsman in Cyrano’s company, Cyrano still manages to voice his love – except, of course, he lends his words to the tongue-tied Christian, a deceit Roxanne swallows. And here Dinklage, a superbly expressive actor, is at his finest. It’s in the words, but it is also in his eyes – the scale of his sacrifice, the pain of the loss he is prepared to inflict on himself in his belief that his own love is impossible.

Kelvin Harrison Jr gives us a decent enough Christian, a man likeable for all he is so palpably unworthy of either Roxanne’s love or Cyrano’s self-effacement.

Haley Bennett is equally impressive as Roxanne, a sheltered but spirited woman so in love with words of love that she doesn’t for a moment think where they are really coming from.

But overwhelmingly it is Dinklage’s film. It’s a haunting, painfully human performance, misplaced self-denial wrapped up in his awful sense of otherness and his consequent gnawing self-doubt. The words are powerful, but his expressions say even more. The film is sombre, poignant and powerful.

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There’s been plenty of whingeing that Dinklage can’t actually sing. But that’s not quite the point. His half-spoken delivery is perfect in the context.

The film is beautifully shot – so much so that you will spend part of it wondering where on earth it was made. Look it up first and save yourself the distraction.

As for the songs, there are just a bit of a mixed bag – which is what pulls the film back from being outstanding. Someone to Say, so lovely in the trailer, doesn’t quite develop into the song you hope it will; and several others are just a little bit middling. Against, that Every Letter is terrific; Overcome is the heart of the film in one song; and Wherever I Fall, as the soldiers prepare for war, would be exceptional in any musical at any time.

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