Compared with other recent films dealing with passion in the face of propriety and the random events that transform our world, the latest from writer/director Anthony Minghella is a crisp, calm and balanced look at people thrust together under peculiar circumstances.

Compared with other recent films dealing with passion in the face of propriety and the random events that transform our world, the latest from writer/director Anthony Minghella is a crisp, calm and balanced look at people thrust together under peculiar circumstances.

Taking place in a gritty part of London home to a melting pot of world cultures, the film follows busy architect Will (Jude Law), whose company is robbed as it begins a big neighborhood revitalization project. At home, Will faces equally pressing problems concerning his distant partner Liv (Robin Wright Penn) and her dysfunctional daughter.

These problems come to a head when Will follows one of the burglars back to his house and encounters the thief's alluring mother. Aware that her son stole from him and that his home life is precious, Will begins an affair with Amira (Juliette Binoche).

If you're expecting a clear message, you will question what the director is trying to say through the interactions among the characters and narrative threads. Why does Will feel so distant from Liv? Does the break-in have symbolic meaning tied to the rest of the film? Would anyone cheat on a woman who looks like Robin Wright Penn?

Most is somewhat ambiguous.

But one of the film's greatest strengths is that Minghella is content simply to follow his characters rather than herd them around as figurines bearing an obvious message.

Grade: B