The immensely talented director and writer Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) has come up with an inventive and soul stirring adaptation of Graham Greene's 1951 religious novel. Without overwrought Christian evangelizing, the film depicts the way a lapsed Catholic is surprised by grace and a defiant unbeliever is convinced to believe in God.
The drama is set in London over a seven-year period beginning in 1939 during the London blitz. Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) is a moody novelist who falls in love with Sarah Miles (Julianne Moore). She is trapped in a lifeless marriage to Henry (Stephen Rea), a career civil servant. At first, the affair has a torrid sexual component but then it loses some steam. Maurice's pathological jealousy blocks his true experience of love. He is constantly frightened of losing Sarah. She comes to believe that she'll never be able to convince him that he's the best thing that has ever happened to her.
Their romance suddenly shifts course when a bomb hits Maurice's house and sends him flying through the air down the stairs. Convinced that he's dead, Sarah prays in the bedroom for a miracle. He lives but she inexplicably ends the relationship.
Years later, Maurice is still obsessed with Sarah. After a chance encounter with Henry, in which he learns that her husband suspects she might be having an affair, Maurice hires a detective (Ian Hart) to follow Sarah. The investigator's son (Samuel Bould) helps on the case, and the boy has a direct experience of Sarah's compassion. Thanks to the sleuthing of these two, Maurice discovers the real reason why she left him.
Ralph Harper, a religious writer, has noted: "The action of grace is not of the same order of truths that reason is at ease with. It is something felt, not something thought, something accepted, not something chosen." Writer and director Neil Jordan traces the subtle and surprising play of grace in the lives of Sarah and Maurice. There is no way to plan or prepare for the multitude of God's mercies. In a most felicitous phrase that is right in sync with the religious themes of this romantic drama, Thomas Merton calls these life-transforming moments "kisses from God."