19th Century silkworm merchant Herve (Michael Pitt, in need of some non-drowsy meds) travels from France to Japan in pursuit of healthy worm eggs. There, he finds himself smitten with a mysterious, silent young woman (Sei Ashina), which confuses Herve, since his wife (Keira Knightley) is back at home, longing to have a baby.

Big question: Can director Francois Girard's ("The Red Violin") adaptation of Alessandro Barrico's novel spin a romantic tale of longing without putting us to sleep?

Skip it: Herve's unnecessary narration diminishes the movie's otherwise gentle truth that so much about love can be said without words. Though it slowly and sweetly sets a hushed mood of desire, "Silk" never reveals much about the complexity of commitment or the inevitability of temptation.

Catch it: If you can find your way anywhere without specific directions. When Herve asks how to get to Japan, his employer Baldabiou (Alfred Molina) points to the right and says, "It's that way. Keep going 'til the end of the world." No compass needed!

Bottom line: Watching "Silk" is like being slapped in the face by a feather: You're surprised that something so soft can grab your attention but have neither emotional nor physical bruises to show for it.

Bonus: Baldabiou mentions that Herve's journey could yield results as profitable as 10,000 francs, or as negative as, um, Herve's death. Well, great to know exactly how much your life is worth!

Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.

----

'Silk'

In English and unsubtitled Japanese. Running time: 1:56. MPAA rating: R (for sexuality and nudity).