From Film Journal:
It’s not easy to make a 140-minute Medieval-set film, even one about sexual desire and rivalry, pulse with passion. That is the challenge veteran French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier grapples with in The Princess of Montpensier, his middling adaptation of Madame de La Fayette’s short story about various men vying for the affections of an unhappy princess in 16th-century France.
Tavernier has assembled a cast of rising young stars to inject some heat into the handsomely mounted proceedings, but what their photogenic presence and the director’s own agility behind the camera can’t give the film is a sense of urgency. Despite the intelligence and savoir-faire that clearly went into making The Princess of Montpensier, the movie gives the impression of going through the motions rather than engaging the viewer with its ideas and images, which mostly feel familiar.
Set against the backdrop of the war between Catholics and Protestants, The Princess of Montpensier centers on a young heiress, Marie de Mezieres (Melanie Thierry), and the different men who, to varying degrees, love her, want her, revere her, and resent her: the insecure prince whom she is forced to marry (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet); the prince’s cousin, a studly knight with questionable intentions (Gaspard Ulliel); a quick-witted duke with a devilish gleam in his eye (Raphael Personnaz); and the count of Chabannes (Lambert Wilson), a retired warrior who becomes Marie’s tutor and pines for her from the sidelines in what is by far the film’s most persuasive and palpable emotion.