Most Romantic Damian Lewis character? I Vote for Norman Harris in Brides

“Niki, my darling, I thought about you all last night. That’s more or less how a love letter begins. Isn’t it, Niki? ” – Norman Harris

source: screencap
source: Screencap from movie

UPDATE 07/16/2016: I have been living in the US for the last 20 years but I come back to my native Turkey every summer to visit my family. I am currently in Izmir, my hometown, enjoying my family, the food, the sun, and the blue waters of my beloved Aegean sea! And I can’t help think of a Damian Lewis movie that, in fact, starts in my hometown! So, this re-post is just inevitable today…

I am so in the mood for writing about something romantic! So I have been thinking about all Damian Lewis characters to choose one that would fit the bill. And… Voila!  Norman Harris is the winner, for me, as the most romantic character Damian brought to us so far.

Have you seen Brides (Nyfes) yet?

Brides (Nyfes) is a 2004 movie directed by celebrated Greek Director Pantelis Voulgaris and starring Damian Lewis and Victoria Haralabidou in the lead roles. The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2004, and won the Best Film Award at the Greek State Film Awards, a part of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in 2004. The movie is available for purchase on Amazon.

Brides is a subtle, sad and beautiful story of impossible love between Norman Harris, an American photographer, and Niki Douka, a Greek seamstress. It is also a moving tale of women that need to put tradition, duty and sacrifice before love. The central love story as well as the subplots resonate strongly with me; however, I choose to focus on Norman and Niki’s love story in this post. 


It’s 1922. We first meet Norman in Smyrna, Turkey. I wrote about it earlier here but in case you missed it… I am from Smyrna, born and raised (Izmir in modern day Turkey): a beautiful city on Turkey’s West Coast with a rich Greek heritage that reflects itself in all ways of life which I LOVE.

So Norman is in my hometown, with a camera in hand, calling a group of kids in Turkish: “Cocuklar! (Hey, Kids!)” May I just say it’s so sweet hearing Damian say a word in my native tongue? He plays with the children and ties a piece of cloth to a wish tree with them! We find out he is in Smyrna for work, taking war photos from the Greco – Turkish war. However, they find his photos “too artsy to publish” and so Norman, quite frustrated, sells his camera to a colleague and is ready to board on a ship that will take him back home to Detroit, and to his troubled marriage.

The ship S.S. Alexander that will take Norman to New York is full of “mail-order brides” going to America for arranged marriages, a little known, true event. These young women, some of whom are barely teenagers — Greek, Turkish, Russian, Armenian — marry pictures in front a priest or an imam and then board on a ship to go meet their new husbands in America.


One of these brides is Niki (Haralabidou), a young seamstress from Samothrace, a Greek Island in Northern Aegean Sea. She is one of seven cousins at marrying age  — all orphans who need to marry to survive financially and there are not a lot of men left for them to marry because of the on-going war. Niki’s family marries her older sister Eleni off to Prodromos, a Greek tailor in Chicago, and ships her off to Chicago for her new life. However, Eleni cannot stand life in America, cries day and night, and Prodromos sends her back… Now, the family, to save its honor, chooses Niki, a strong girl that they know will be able to survive and be a good wife to Prodromos, too. The only thing Eleni has to say about Prodromos is he is “a very honest man” and Niki’s response says it all: “Love is for idlers, Eleni. I can do without it.”

Now… I would LOVE you to see the movie and enjoy it so I don’t really want to give spoilers… But since I am dying to talk about this most romantic Damian Lewis character ever, I need to do some spoiling without giving the entire story away… So… if you don’t want to know anything, STOP reading here, go get a copy of Brides and read this review once you meet Mr. Harris!

Last chance to jump ship! 🙂


Well… Niki catches Norman’s eye before they board on S. S. Alexander. As he is killing time at a coffee shop waiting to board, Norman notices this young woman and gives her a look that all of us would want some guy to give us in our lifetimes 🙂 Even the military march being played at the moment — a constant reminder of the war and its consequences such as orphans, poverty and mail-order brides — cannot spoil the FIRST LOOK between the two of them. And I know that if you did not stop reading, you will stop reading once you see this scene and go and get a copy of Brides — guaranteed!

Norman is traveling first-class where as all 700 brides are in third-class. Now… Just because the movie has a first class and a third class passenger falling for each other, you may envision this love story a Titanic of sorts… Don’t! One of the first things you notice about Brides is the contrast between Hollywood and European Cinema in story telling… Brides is an art-house movie. It’s subtle. It’s slow. It’s quiet. It’s poetic. It’s a wonderfully shot and told LOVE story — love lived through looks, gestures and a few words only… And even though the movie does not have a love scene as we know it, it has some of the most poetic love scenes I have ever seen.

Once the ship sails, we see one of the most heart-breaking scenes in any movie. Hundreds of women taking a last look at what they are leaving behind for good…

source: screencap from movie
source: screencap from movie

It gives me the creeps just to stop for a second and think about what they must be feeling at that very moment. They all know for a fact they will never see this land again, and more importantly, they will never see their families again. They are young and so full of hope but then they don’t know what kind of a husband is waiting for them in America, either… And, hey, what is America anyway? Olga, a young Russian woman prays to God: “Make America beautiful. Make it look like Russia.” They must be so deeply scared. It’s a situation that is quite incomprehensible for most of us, isn’t it? However, arranged marriages in one form or another are still norm rather than exception in many parts of the world… It’s always been hard and it is hard and it will always be hard to be a woman in this world… Sigh. But yeah I was saying I would write about something romantic, right? 🙂

FIRST WORDS between Norman and Niki… Norman, frustrated with his work, is tearing his photos and throwing them to third class deck late at night. Niki tells him not to tear them down again. It turns out the only photo she has in her house is her father in his coffin and all the family around him. Many people have their only photograph when they are dead on her island. Norman is intrigued by this spirited, hard-working and stubborn young woman. He helps her take a sewing job in the first class. And Niki gives Norman his new project when he tells her he likes to take photos of things others pass over: Norman will now take pictures of the 699 young brides in their wedding gowns or in his own words “snow in summer!” Why 699? Because Niki says she does not need one.

source: screencap from movie
source: screencap from movie

The two spend time together. Norman gives Niki a book. She gives him black olives from her village. They talk about their parents. He shows her the magic of making photos. He finds out she has never got any love letters… They just can’t help falling for each other; yet, Niki is not a daydreamer… When a woman wants to read her “kismet” on her palm she goes: “No need. I know mine.” Niki does not dream about eloping with Norman, or her future romantic life with Prodromos. Her only dream is about nice fabrics, a lot of customers and a Singer Machine!


But even the strongest woman may lose control of her emotions when our Norman is concerned 🙂 As the two are standing on the deck looking at the stars, Niki tells Norman about her wedding dress and its travels across the Atlantic: “My godmother in ’99, my sister 1921, and me 1922. Back and forth.. Back and forth… Very unlucky dress.” She just sits down with her face in her hands… And they have their FIRST KISS. Well, it’s not real a kiss, but I  would absolutely call it so. See and decide for yourself!

Kiss or not, Niki now wants to “live here for a second” with Norman. She doesn’t just let him tie her shoe but take her photo in her wedding dress… and the two actors together create one of the most poetic scenes I have ever seen! It absolutely feels like their wedding day. Norman is astonished… enchanted… He’s a bridegroom that cannot take his eyes off his bride on their wedding day. The way Niki leaves her headdress on his camera and the way Norman takes and wears it around his neck is, for me, nothing less than them saying their “I Do”s. And we once more see how less is always more with Damian. He is PERFECT.

source: screencap from movie
source: screencap from movie
source: screencap from movie
source: screencap from movie

Later that night her friend Haro tells Niki she sees the love between her and Norman. “That is all there is…” she says. “Go away with him, Niki.” LOVE is all there is… It’s too late for Haro but not for Niki. Haro is inconsolable. She is on this ship just because her father marries her off to some man in America but she loves another…  Haro chooses death and jumps into the dark waters which I suspect some viewers may find too sentimental. But this kind of story always brings tears to my eyes. Maybe because I am from that part of the world and I personally know women in my extended family that had been married off to men they really did not love just because their families gave promises. And just thinking about how many people, mostly women, had to choose (and still have to choose) duty over love is simply sad.

Norman makes his last move and says “I love you” to Niki hours before they arrive in America. But NO. Niki MUST go to Chicago and fulfill the marriage contract. “It’s a matter of honor to my family… If I come with you, my family will have a bad name, no marriage for my sisters and cousins… too many women depend on me.” This is her duty. Her sacrifice.

source: screencap from movie
source: screencap from movie

So Norman sits and writes the one and only love letter Niki will probably get in her life and gives her all brides’ pictures with his letter hidden among them… And Niki gives him her earring to remember her by… They really KISS for first and last time.

And me… In tears every time I see this movie because I just cannot accept the way the story ends. I am old enough to know life is not fair but I just can’t help it.

You know we believe in Fan Fiction to correct what should not have happened in the first place! In our Homeland Fan Fiction, for example, we have Carrie and Brody completely in love and living happily ever after. Why not? So, why not Norman and Niki somehow find each other and fall in love all over again at some point ? My imagination is going a bit wild now. Hehe. And I know Fan Fiction can help me with this… I am looking at you my dear Bookworm to ease the pain 🙂

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

15 thoughts on “Most Romantic Damian Lewis character? I Vote for Norman Harris in Brides”

  1. We reallyn have, the same tastes, we love Keane and Brides, very few fans speak of Brides!
    Yet, what a beautiful movie! I think this is the film where, Damian is the most romantic, and God knows, how wonderfully Damian interpreter, romantic man, the lover!
    Like you, I often have tears in my eyes when I watch this film, and I watched it,several times!
    Thank you for the beautiful description, history, and thanks to reading what you wrote, I understand, some dialogues between Normand and Nicky, I did not understand, because there is no sub titles, and I regret it!
    Loved Damian, in this film!Quelle douceur dans son regard,il est merveilleux

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Monique, it makes my day <3 Yes, we absolutely DO have same tastes! I think Brides is not very well known among the fans, so is Keane --- they are both small-budget movies and so we genuinely see it as a mission to let the fans know about them!!! Because they are both GREAT films in very different ways. I am so happy that my post also helps with the parts you did not understand in the movie. And I completely agree with you that movies NEED subtitles for us to understand every single detail, because I really want to understand every single detail --- much love!

  2. I need subtitles because never, I watch a movie Damian in French, the best dubbing can not bring us what bring the beautiful voice of Damian!
    He may have a deep voice, sweet, sensual, angry, I love his voice as I love while Damian !!

    1. I do not want to write what I have already written, yet I can not use other words to say to what extent, Damian is beautiful, in his interpretation of a mad man of love, and who is obliged to let the woman he loves!
      A wonder, what beautiful look, what beautiful blue eyes, moreover Niki said, a moment
      “Why have you such beautiful eyes !!”
      Thank you to relive those beautiful moments!

      1. He has beautiful eyes and the first look between the two of them is just wonderful! I still want to imagine they got together at some point in life 🙂

  3. Hola!!! Qué bueno que estés de vacaciones!!! Yo también..aunque aqui es invierno y solo tomé unos días del trabajo…. Todavía no vi Novias, pero después de éste post, no puedo esperar!!! Por las imágenes, puedo decir que Damian estaba en su mejor momento..(no es que ahora no esté bien)..físicamente. Su rostro es simplemente perfecto, combinado con sus brillantes actuaciones. Bueno, que sigas disfrutando, y si alguna vez vienes a Argentina, será un placer conocerte y recibirte. BESOS

    1. Haha. Vacation is nice except for the fact that we just had a failed coup attempt. It is over but there is a number of complications including flight ban between Turkey and the US. So we need to re-arrange our travels back to the US, etc. So we will see!

      I LOVE this movie! SO MUCH! Damian is a decade younger in this film. I just think he gets older like a bottle of good wine though. And it could be just me but I just find people more beautiful in their 40s 🙂 The acting is wonderful – they are perfect together. And their love is so impossible that it makes it even better than possible love – some kind of Carrie and Brody in different times, in a very different context. Hope you enjoy the movie!

      And I would LOVE to visit Argentina one day!!!
      BESOS! <3

      1. Uhhh cierto!!! Espero que puedas volver bien a tu casa y que tu familia de Turquía se encuentre bien. y ya sabes, si vienes para el sur, aquí tienes una amiga. besos

      2. watching a tv, the attempted coup in Turkey, I thought for you! I hope your family is fine, and there is not too many dead in the people!
        Right now it is the horror in the world, look what happened in Nice, so many children died because of a madman, a murderer!
        Fortunately, thanks to the computer, our beautiful Damian, brings joy, peace and happiness! It helps us a lot!
        I’m looking at BOB for the thousandth time in this series His hairstyle is the same as in his last interviews, the same haircut!
        And in this series I still admire his eyes, his look, wonderful

        1. Thank you, Monique! The bad thing is that the coup attempt is terrible but so is the current government. I don’t want to get into politics on the blog – – it is not the place so I did not even mention it in my post. Thanks so much for thinking of me. We are all fine physically but not really fine psychologically. Everyone is nervous. We just don’t know what is next. And you are absolutely right that the blog brings me joy and it puts a smile on my face in these hard times. Much love!

          1. even if the Turkish government is bad, it is hoped peace!
            In France Francois Hollande is the worst president we’ve had! he is zero, prétentious incapable!
            now I search videos, Where we see Damian, signing autographs at his fans!
            Do you get some clips or vidéos?

          2. We all hope for peace in this crazy world – you are right! I don’t have any clips or videos of Damian signing autographs. I recall seeing a few on You Tube. It is probably the best place to look for them.

  4. I may have to have a rewatch soon after reading this. Such a wonderful review/summary. They were so made for each other. It is such a wonderfully quiet and subtle movie. That kiss at the end…

    …looking back at you…it is on my list!

    1. Thank you!!! It may be my favorite Damian movie. The director could have told the story as a tear jerker but he, I believe, deliberately avoids from doing that and I applaud him for it! Connection to my hometown is incredible. Hearing Damian say “Cocuklar!” (“Kids!”) is special 😀 Haha — love it it’s on your list!

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