It is the Dark Ages; the Romans have left Britain, and the scattered tribes have fallen to the marauding Irish. An orphan boy, Tristan, has been lovingly raised by Lord Marke, who would unite Britain and be its first king. When wounded Tristan is nursed back to health by Isolde, the Irish king's daughter, they fall in love, but fate has some surprises in store for the young couple.
This venerable legend, with many similarities to the tale of King Arthur, is all about loyalty, young love, and betrayal and had the potential to be a memorable film. But with a low budget and a cast not of thousands, but of thirty or so, it's a good try but no cigar. James Franco isn't right for the role of Tristan; he's stiff and awkward and is never a truly tragic figure. Rufus Sewell, however, is outstanding as the kindly Lord Marke, heroic, sympathetic, and charismatic; it's too bad he doesn't look old enough to be Tristan's adoptive father. Sophia Myles is lovely as Isolde, but sometimes seems to overpower the tentative Tristan.
The movie was filmed in Ireland and Prague in shadowy earth tones and has a suitably barbaric look to it, but the editing is often choppy and scenes end too suddenly. The actors use a wide variety of accents and the dialogue is a mixture of period speech and words like 'Mom,' 'gonna,' and 'Hey!' Most important, the script lacks the raw intensity necessary for a really convincing love story. In a DVD feature, the crew compares the movie to "Troy" and "Dr. Zhivago," and while it's pleasant enough, it's clearly not in the "epic" category. Good, but not great.