Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac (based on a real person) has become literature’s definitive tale of unrequited love. The story is so enduring that this version by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina and Darkest Hour — but also Pan) is the 19th film to be made on its theme, along with countless stage productions.

And none is more compelling. The reason for the film’s success can be summed up in two words: Peter Dinklage. The basic plot: The titular legendary swordsman and equally potent wordsmith, afraid to declare his love for his long-time gal pal Roxanne (Haley Bennett) instead writes love letters to her on the part of the dashing but hilariously illiterate soldier (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) she thinks she’s fallen in love with (due of course to these elegant letters). 

The hero’s self-perceived shortcoming has been cleverly morphed from an oversized schnoz to a diminutive stature, and it couldn’t be more natural. Dinklage, who alone made “Game of Thrones” worth watching, is simply one of the best actors we have working today. I’ve never seen him put in a bad performance (check out The Station Agent, Death at a Funeral, I Care a Lot).

It’s a musical, adapted from a stage show, but that’s okay because the songs, while falling short of memorable, are not too annoying and advance the story. Dinklage can even sing! Okay, not well, but surprisingly heartbreakingly. Take a hankie. (124 min)