Producer Scott Steindorff spent over three years courting Gabriel García Márquez for the rights to the book telling him that he was Florentino and would not give up until he got the rights.
It is the first filming of a García Márquez novel by a Hollywood studio, rather than by Latin American or Italian directors.
It is the first English-language work of Academy Award-nominated Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro, who portrays Tránsito Ariza.
Much of the film takes place in the historic, walled city of Cartagena in Colombia. Some screen shots showed the Magdalena River and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range.
London based animation studio VooDooDog created the title sequence and end sequence. These sequences draw inspirations from the colors and atmosphere of South America.
We put a lot of effort into the line test stage, studying time-lapse flowers footage and getting the twisting feeling of the tendrils and flowers opening before committing to the hand painting stage. I am sure no one other than fussy designers notice, but we think it was worth the effort rather than just making a straight computerised sequence.
In late 19th century Cartagena, a river port in Colombia, Florentino Ariza falls in love at first sight with Fermina Daza. They secretly correspond, and she eventually agrees to marry him, but her father discovers their relationship and sends her to stay with distant relatives (mainly her grandmother and niece). When she returns some years later, Fermina agrees to marry Dr. Juvenal Urbino, her father's choice. Their 50-year marriage is outwardly loving but inwardly marred by darker emotions. Fermina's marriage devastates Florentino, who vows to remain a virgin, but his self-denial is thwarted by a tryst.
To help him get over Fermina, his mother throws a willing widow into his bed, and he discovers that sex is a very good pain reliever, one he uses to replace the opium that he had habitually smoked. He begins to record and describe each of his sexual encounters, beginning with the widow, and eventually compiles over 600 entries.
A lowly clerk, he plods resolutely over many years to approach the wealth and social standing of Dr. Urbino. When the now-elderly doctor dies suddenly, Florentino immediately and impertinently resumes courting Fermina.
According to an interview by Colombian magazine Revista Semana, Scott Steindorff, producer of the film, showed an unreleased final edition of the film to Gabriel García Márquez in Mexico who at the end of the film is said to have exclaimed "Bravo!" with a smile on his face.
The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 26% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 108 reviews. On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 44 out of 100, based on 27 reviews.
Time rated it "D" and described it as "a serious contender [for] the worst movie ever made from a great novel ... Skip the film; reread the book."
In her review in Entertainment Weekly, Lisa Schwarzbaum also rated it "D" and called it a "turgid and lifeless movie adaptation", opining that "those who have read Gabriel García Márquez's glowing and sexy 1988 novel about one man's grand love for a woman who marries another are bound to be peevishly disappointed ... those who haven't read the book will now never understand the ardor of those who have — at least not based on all the hammy traipsing and coupling and scene-hopping thrown together here."
In the Los Angeles Times, Carina Chocano stated, "the novel has made it to the screen in the form of a plodding, tone-deaf, overripe, overheated Oscar baiting telenovela ... Doubtless it's an enormously daunting task to adapt a book at once so sweeping and internal, so swooningly romantic and philosophical, but it takes a lighter touch and a more expansive view than Newell and Harwood seem to bring."
A song written for the film by Shakira and Antonio Pinto was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Song.
In its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, the film ranked #10 at the box office, grossing $1.9 million in 852 theaters.