The experiences of two young English women in India, two generations apart, in the 1920s and 1980s. Anne, a young historical researcher, inherits letters written by her great aunt Olivia, and becomes obsessed with their revelation of an exotic and sensual past.
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A somewhat uneven tone - largely as a result of the timeframe switches and split narrative - provides a bit of this and a bit of that, but no satisfying whole. That said it is faithful to its locale and provided a useful bridge (artistically and commercially) to the generally more rounded adaptations that followed on similar themes of social nuance and one's place in society, if not the world.
It's a good film, but it doesn't quite live up to the novel it's based on, which is surprising considering that the author was also the screenwriter. I did find it a bit disjointed and boring at times.
Heat and Dust attempts to tell three separate tales occurring at three disparate times and places, in hopes of tying them together in an organic and fruitful way before the conclusion of the film. It is enough to say that in this all-important attempt it fails miserably.