Directed by John Madden, starring Nicolas Cage, Penelope Cruz, John Hurt, Christian Bale, David Morrissey and Irene Pappas.

Whether it is a coincidence or not, Anthony Minghella is thanked on the closing credits for 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'. Coincidental in that it could be said that Minghella's successful film of Michael Ondaatje's book, 'The English Patient', paved the way for the screenplay adaptation of Louis de Bernières novel. Both are tales of lost love set against the backdrop of world wars where life is upturned and irreversibly changed. In Minghella's story, the romantic relationships central to the story are relics of bygone troubled times, recalled through retrospective narrative. Here 'Shakespeare in Love' director John Madden places Cruz and Cage's romance centre field as it is played out against the madness and horror of World War II.

Pelagia (Penelope Cruz) lives on the tranquil Greek island of Cephallonia hoping to follow in the footsteps of her father Dr Iannis (John Hurt). In helping to treat the locals, she encounters Mandras (Christian Bale), a local fisherman, and is spellbound by his simple lifestyle. They quickly fall in love, and Pelagia agrees to a betrothal. But before long their rustic existence is shattered when the Italian army occupies neighbouring Albania and the island's men folk, including Mandras, rush to its borders to fight against them. When the German army occupies Greek mainland, Italian battalions are assigned to the islands and Dr Iannis is obligated to lodge an Italian officer. Captain Corelli (Nicolas Cage) is a robust optimist, a perpetual singer and mandolin-player. Through their incessant opera singing the battalion win over the hearts of the locals and Corelli captures Pelagia's.

This is wartime and the path of true love never runs smooth. The duplicitous German army occupies Cephallonia after the fall of Mussolini, killing islanders and Italians alike. Corelli survives an ambush but realises he must leave the island – and Pelagia – if he wants to live. The star-crossed lovers are separated but love triumphs over war in this colourful, tender adaptation. Cruz is a competent Greek beauty, while Cage is just Cage with a (bad) Italian accent. John Hurt as Iannis and Christian Bale as Mandras give the most notable performances here. The film is set against Hellenic skylines, pastoral town scenes and idyllic beaches. Neither as epic nor as outstanding as 'The English Patient', this is an enchanting war romance infused with tragedy and loss. Steer clear if you're allergic to Puccini though.

Sinéad Gleeson