Early on in the period drama The Luzhin Defence, Emily Watson's Natalia proclaims that she wants something different, and that's just what we get through most of this adaptation, based on Vladimir Nabokov's novel of chess and madness. But as acclaimed director Marleen Gorris (Mrs. Dalloway) takes us toward the vital final act, that sense of originality seems to fade.

Luckily, we are saved throughout by Watson's performance. As a woman vacationing with her pesky mother in 1920s Italy, she stumbles upon eccentric, pained, chess genius Alexander Luzhin, or more accurately, he stumbles upon her. Luzhin, played by a solid and risk-taking John Turturro, is disheveled and awkward, the kind of absent-minded obsessive that draws stares of both scorn and jealousy. Watson and Turturro, both at the top of their talents, create a sort of Romeo and Juliet -- he's reckless and unkempt, she's proper and well-mannered.

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