I realize it’s only March, and surely, there will be many wonderful films released this year. Maybe I’ll even get a chance to watch a few of them. But I dare say: Cyrano is my favorite film of 2022!
Released in theaters earlier this year, the 2021 adaptation of Cyrano has everything I could want in a film: excellent acting by a talented cast, a timeless love story, a little humor, graceful choreography, and bright musical theater singing! It was filmed in Noto (Sicily), Italy, which afforded some breathtaking aerial scenes, too.
The film also happens to be a nominee for Best Costume Design (for designers Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran) at this year’s Academy Awards. (Updated March 27, 2022: The award went to the film, Cruella.)
Cyrano de Bergerac – the play
Cyrano is based on the play set in 17th century Paris entitled, Cyrano de Bergerac, which was written in 1897 by French poet and playwright, Edmond Rostand.
The play tells the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, who is in love with his cousin, Roxane. He doesn’t want to tell her because he believes she wouldn’t love him back due to his disproportionately large nose. As the play develops, Roxane reveals that she is in love with good-looking Christian, a new cadet in Cyrano’s regiment. Christian feels the same for Roxane, but he doesn’t know how to express himself. Cyrano becomes Christian’s ghostwriter and composes poetic love letters to Roxane. Believing the words were written by Christian, Roxane falls madly in love with him.
Cyrano – the 2021 film adaptation
The 2021 film adaptation was directed by Joe Wright, who based it on the 2018 off-Broadway musical adaptation by Erica Schmidt.
For the most part, the two-hour-long film adaptation closely follows the original play. However, there are several notable differences. For starters, it’s Cyrano’s short stature that makes him self-conscious and insecure, not an enormous nose.
Other differences between the play and film include the spelling of Roxane. In the film, her name is spelled with another ‘n’ (like the Steve Martin 1987 film adaptation). Additionally, Roxanne is no longer a cousin; she is now Cyrano’s “oldest friend.” In the play, 15 years pass between Acts IV and V, while only three years separate the two acts in the film.
Cyrano is played by Peter Dinklage, who is probably best known for his role on Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, I’ve never watched that fantasy series, so I’ve missed out. However, I have seen his remarkable performances in movies, such as Death at a Funeral, Elf, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. In Cyrano, I like how Dinklage shows Cyrano’s vulnerability through his facial expressions or sorrowful, deep-sounding singing.
Kelvin Harrison, Jr. is charming as the innocent and awkward Christian. When he speaks, I forget for a moment that the story is set in the year 1640! Compared to the other characters, his lines are less flowery, so his character could easily be from the present-day.
What I love most about this film adaptation is that it’s also a musical! The soundtrack is just so… good. Singalong-able. Evocative. (Ugh. Words fail me. Cyrano, help me find the words!)
One of the most dramatic musical parts is the balcony scene in Act III. Haley Bennett brings a boldness to Roxanne that I haven’t seen in previous adaptations. Unlike her two suitors, Roxanne has the courage to express herself. For example, as she ascends the stairs, she belts out, “I need more/ I need waves of desire to come over me/ And teardrops on the floor/ I need more…” demonstrating how Roxanne owns her feelings. Apparently, Cyrano and Christian find that irresistible, so they rush to pacify (and eventually woo) Roxanne. Cyrano feeds Christian his lines to say to Roxanne, who listens intently and longingly from her balcony.
All of the gorgeous music for Cyrano was composed by members of the band, The National (Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner wrote the music while Matt Berninger and his wife, Carin Besser, wrote the lyrics).
“Every time I see you, I am overcome”
While watching the film, I admit I teared up a few times, like during Act II when Roxanne confesses to Cyrano that she loves Christian. When I saw the film the second time, I got misty-eyed again – at the same parts!
It was also emotionally wrenching to watch the scene in Act IV in which three soldiers are writing their farewell letters to family back home. With voices cracking, they sing despondent lyrics over a somber drumbeat, “So take this letter to my wife/ And tell her that I loved my life…/ Tell her not to cry at all/ heaven is wherever I fall.”
During this sobering six-minute sequence in an otherwise escapist epistolary romance, I couldn’t help but think of soldiers everywhere currently at war, most recently in Ukraine and Russia.
To end on a lighter note, here is the official lyric video for one of my favorite songs from the film, “Someone To Say – Reprise” performed by Harrison, Dinklage, the Dessners, Víkingur Ólafsson, and the London Contemporary Orchestra.
Dare to love. Madly. 💌
🎞 Watch the trailer: Cyrano (MGM/United Artists Releasing)