Killing Me Softly (film)

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Not to be confused with the 2012 thriller Killing Them Softly.
Killing Me Softly
Killing Me Softly (film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Chen Kaige
Produced by
Written by
Music by Patrick Doyle
Cinematography Michael Coulter
Edited by Jon Gregory
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • March 25, 2003 (2003-03-25) (US)
Running time
100 minutes
Language English

Killing Me Softly is a 2002 American erotic thriller film directed by Chen Kaige and starring Heather Graham and Joseph Fiennes. Based on the novel of the same name by Nicci French (pen name of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French), it introduces several substantial changes to the story and focuses heavily on the intense sexual relationship between the two lead characters, including several nude scenes.

The film was released unrated on DVD. It also was Kaige's first, and to date only English-language film.


Alice (Heather Graham) is a young American woman from the flat lands living in London who believes she is happy in a secure job and a relationship with her live-in boyfriend. After a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger (Joseph Fiennes), she seeks him out and the two end up in the backyard having fast and sensuous sex. She returns home to her boyfriend, unsuccessfully attempting to bring out the same feelings between them she had with her stranger.

The following day she seeks the stranger out again, discovering his name is Adam - a mountain climber who is considered a hero after a tragic outing where one team lost their lives. She leaves her boyfriend and begins a relationship with Adam. He soon asks Alice to marry him, a proposal she happily accepts, but her newfound happiness is haunted by a series of mysterious phone calls and messages. On the day of their wedding, she receives an unmarked letter warning her against Adam. She ignores it and the two marry. Soon after she begins receiving more letters and begins to wonder about her husband's mysterious past. She becomes even more alarmed when she searches a locked wardrobe and finds a box of old letters from an ex-lover.

Alice searches after several leads as to who is sending the warnings and discovers a woman from Adam's past had gone missing. She suspects he had something to do with it and eventually runs from him. She goes to police but they cannot do anything without any evidence. Alice then goes to seek for help with Adam's sister, Deborah (Natascha McElhone), only to find out that she was responsible for the death of his ex-lover. It is revealed that Deborah has an incestuous past with Adam, resulting in her subsequent possessiveness. As she tries to mete the same fate out to Alice, out comes Adam from the snowy perilous night to her rescue. Livid, he dismisses the past on account of their adolescence. Struck and fallen, Deborah makes an attempt on his life, stopped short by Alice's timely intervention, mortally wounding Deborah with a flare pistol. Adam admits to Alice that he and his sister were once together as children, and that he thought that if Alice just trusted him, then everything would be alright. The next morning, Adam is apparently taken away by the Police, betraying no hints of the possibility of their eventual union.

Two years later Alice and Adam see one another again on either side of an escalator - she's going down and he's riding up. They both watch each other as they pass without saying anything. Adam stops at the top and turns to stare back at Alice before walking away. The film ends with Alice's voice over recollecting the events in posterity and wondering what might have happened had fate not led her to Adam one morning. She wonders if the passion between them could ever have lasted, and that a girl born in the flatlands could never have survived at 20,000 feet anyway.



Filming commenced on October 29, 2000 and was mostly based in or around London, England and Cumbria, England.[citation needed]


The film received a 0% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews; the site's consensus is: "Respected director Chen Kaige's first English-language film is a spectacularly misguided erotic thriller, with ludicrous plot twists and cringe-worthy dialogue".[1] In 2009, the site also rated it #12 on the countdown of the worst films over the last 10 years.

Home media[edit]

On August 13, 2013, Shout! Factory released Killing Me Softly on Blu-ray along with The Hot Spot as part of a double feature.[2]


External links[edit]