David Lean's Doctor Zhivago is an absolute masterpiece. From the moment the film starts with Sir Alec Guinness searching for his niece you know you're in for something special. Of course if you're familiar with director Lean's other work such as Lawrence of Arabia or The Bridge on the River Kwai, then you knew that going in.
The film takes place right in the middle of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Omar Sharif plays Yuri Zhivago, a young doctor who, having been orphaned at a young age, grew up with the family of one of his mother's close friends. Yuri is in love with and soon to marry the daughter of this family, Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin).
Lara (played by the wonderful Julie Christie at the height of her beauty) is a young woman working towards a scholarship and living with her mother and her mother's lover Victor (Rod Steiger). Victor has eyes for the beautiful young Lara, and makes it known one night after dinner at a fancy restaurant. This starts a very dominant and tumultuous relationship between Lara and Victor.
Lara is not fond of Victor; he is a very brash and domineering man and has no respect for her. On Christmas Eve, after Victor has raped her, Lara hunts him down at a party and shoots him in a failed attempt to kill him. Victor refuses to have her arrested, because despite his attitude he still cares for her, and she is led off by Pasha (Tom Courtenay), a revolutionary and a man who is soon to become her husband. Yuri and Tonya are also guests at this party, and witness the whole scene.
World War I has now broken out, and Yuri is a doctor on the front lines. While retreating from the battlefield, Yuri and his comrades meet their replacements. When the two groups meet up, insanity ensues and it seems that the revolution has started as the troops attack and murder their COs. There are several that are wounded or killed, and Yuri feels it is his duty to stay behind and tend to the casualties. Also remaining to help is Lara, who is a nurse and was headed out to the front lines to search for her husband. The two of them are then summoned to a military hospital, where there are dozens of sick and wounded that need tending to and Yuri and Lara are the only ones around to do it. Over the next six months the two of them become very close, but the relationship stays platonic.