A Yank at Oxford, Roland Michell chances across a lost letter by Victorian writer Randolph Ash. Not only is this document valuable in itself, but the contents suggest Ash was infatuated with Christabel LaMotte, a minor poet and lesbian icon. Michell enlists the aid of a sceptical Dr Maud Bailey - a distant relative of Christabel - to pursue this biographical scoop. Their vicarious interest in the Victorians' passionate affair almost overcomes their own late 20th century neuroses and inhibitions. 'Literary' novels rarely inspire good movies, and AS Byatt's Booker prizewinner is no exception. It's not often one yearns for the finesse of James Ivory, but as anyone who has seen LaBute's sour contemporary comedies will tell you, he has never betrayed a great affinity for romance. His major innovation here is to reconceive Michell as rugged, designer-stubbled American go-getter Eckhart, who carries himself like a jock, not an academic. With her perfectly posh accent, Paltrow's Maud unconsciously caricatures the condescending, repressed Brit. Northam and Ehle are more persuasive in their roles, but the 19th century lovers are too firmly fixed in the past tense to come truly to life.