Drama/Romance. Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Hal Holbrook, Paul Schneider. Director: Francis Lawrence.

Twilight pin-up Robert Pattinson puts a little colour in his cheeks in Francis Lawrence’s gorgeously framed adaptation of the novel by Sara Gruen about a doomed love affair in a 1930s circus troupe.

Water For Elephants is an important barometer of the young actor’s appeal away from Stephenie Meyer’s feuding vampires and werewolves.

Pattinson acquits himself well, playing to his strengths – angry-ridden glances straight into the camera – as one part of a volatile love triangle that is destined to end in tragedy.

The film opens in the present day with nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski (Hal Holbrook) arriving at a circus managed by Charlie (Paul Schneider).

It soon transpires Jacob spent his formative years with the infamous Benzini Bros Circus and he begins to recount his life story, stepping back in time to his student days at Cornell University. Poised to take his final veterinary exam, Jacob (now Pattinson) learns his parents have been killed in a car accident and abandons his studies. He hitches a ride on a passing train belonging to the circus run by August Rosenbluth (Christoph Waltz).

The tyrant physically and mentally abuses animals and performers, including his beautiful wife Marlena (Witherspoon).

When Jacob falls under Marlena’s spell, he tries to resist his feelings, working alongside the wife to win the trust of a special elephant.

However, when August notices the way that the young man stares at Marlena, he exacts a horrific revenge.

Water For Elephants casts a spell with its arresting visuals and the cast looks ravishing.

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, who shot Brokeback Mountain and Biutiful, provides a picturesque canvas for Richard LaGravenese’s elegant screenplay.

However, when the film’s big emotional kick arrives, it doesn’t quite connect – we well up, but there are no tears shed for the characters in their darkest hour.