First, the good news: The Fountain is only 97 minutes long. Now the bad: that's 97 minutes of rampant metaphysical codswallop. You'll feel every second as Requiem For A Dream director Darren Aronofsky shuffles self-indulgently between three time zones (the 16th, 21st and 26th centuries), making as ponderous as possible the story of a scientist (Hugh Jackman) desperate to save his cancer-stricken wife (Rachel Weisz). What's meant to be an epic meditation on love and death emerges as the biggest auteur folly since Lady In The Water.
Another point of comparison is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yet, where Kubrick's film had genuine grandeur, this only has delusions of it. Bald as a coot, Jackman's astronaut of the future chats away to a magical tree while floating through golden star-scapes that look like a series of screensavers. More lively is 16th-century Spain (where Hugh's a beardy conquistador fighting Mayans for Queen Rachel), but these scenes struggle to take flight, thanks to the sheer meandering madness of the way the strands have been scrambled together in the editing suite.
Rescuing The Fountain from one-star disgrace is Jackman, making a valiant effort to keep the unchecked cod-mysticism grounded in his burning grief and frustration. (Weisz, meanwhile, is mostly required to be lovingly lit by off-screen partner Aronofsky). It's one of the actor's most emotionally intense turns, but in the end the director's pretensions smother everything. "Finish it," becomes the movie's mantra, words that will echo on many a viewer's lips.
The Fountain is released in UK cinemas on Friday 26th January 2007.