"A woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets," Rose (Gloria Stuart), a 101-year-old woman, tells Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton), a fortune hunter who is using the latest technology to explore the wreckage of the Titanic in his search for a priceless jewel. She then tells the story of what happened on the fateful night of April 15, 1902, when the unsinkable vessel hit an iceberg.

Rose (Kate Winslet) is an unhappy 17-year-old American set to wed Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), a fabulously rich young man favored by her social climbing mother (Frances Fisher). Although Cal is awed by her beauty, he has no interest in the yearnings of her soul. Ready to leap off the deck rather than face a future of upper class ennui, Rose is rescued by Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), a free-spirited artist who is returning to the States after seven years abroad as a vagabond. She defies the social barriers that separate them because he alone respects the mystery and the potential of her soul. The young couple find ways to be together secretly on the ship and share some magical days filled with all the risks which must be taken to fully experience the present moment.

Writer and director James Cameron has set the love story of Titanic against the backdrop of the most spectacular calamity of the twentieth century. Unlike other disaster stories, this one focuses all our attention on Rose and Jack although there are two other characters who win our allegiance — an Irish-American woman, Molly Brown (Kathy Bates), and the architect of the ship, Thomas Andrews (Victor Garber). The finale is a special effects dazzler but those scenes pale in comparison to the dramatic and creative ways Cameron exalts the salvific power of love.