On the other hand, it is a story, based on a novel - so I have trouble really faulting it too much for ending like one.
Any plot quibbles aside, the acting is riveting. Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Renee Zellweger are all brilliant, and the supporting cast shines as well. I'd recommend it on the strength of the performances alone.
Emotionally... the IMDb page says "A starkly beautiful film of great emotional impact" and I agree. I was amused as people were coming into the theatre, before the film because it seemed like I was the only person there not part of a couple. It is a Romance, with a capital 'R' so I can see why people would find it a good date movie.
The nice thing about it, for me (and my candy coating of cynicism) was that the romance is handled with a deft touch. Yes, Inman hikes across what seems like the entirety of North Carolina to reach Ada, his sweetheart-of-one-kiss - but he's also going home, and it's clear from various details that the sense of place is also what draws him back to Cold Mountain, the town. Yes, he turns down the advances of various other women, but he's not Galahad-pure and untouchable. You can see him considering staying with Sara (Natalie Portman in a brief but stunning role) but concluding he just wouldn't be happy, in the long run. Ada is the more intellectually inclined and articulate of the two, and she wonders, not surprisingly, how things will be between them if he does return, even as she is "packing her heart in ice," as she describes it.
The contrast between Ada the romantic and Ruby the eminently practical is nicely drawn as well. Especially the interaction between the three of them when Inman arrives and Ruby sees her future plans all in peril. This is where it really grabbed ahold of my romantic side, as Inman handles the situation with such grace of character by saying he understands he needs to ask Ruby's permission to stay at the farm. Of course he doesn't, but in a way he does (for things to go at all smoothly) and it's just the right touch to take with her.
On a personal note, I know part of what is going on here is knowing that while I'd like to be like Ada's character, in that someone would feel so strongly drawn to me and vice versa, I'm much much closer to Ruby in actuality and temperament (and saving her ending up with Georgia and his children, much closer to her experience as well). I'm simply not the sort of person someone drags themselves through such travail for, as much as my romantic side would like to be. I'm enough of an introvert and self-contained in my ability to entertain myself that barring overwhelming societal/economic pressure, I'm unlikely to end up in a marriage/partnership - if only because I don't show enough of my self for anyone to fall in love with until the friendship is far enough along that it's quite unlikely I'll be unfamiliar enough to strike any sparks. If I were of a different generation I might have ended up married simply because that was what one did - in the same way I went to college because that was what one did. I don't think I'd be any worse off, particularly, than I am for having spent a decade or so collecting degrees I don't use.
The other thing that resonates, though not in an experiential way, is the "getting what you most desire just before/as you die" theme. Inman makes it home, and reunites with Ada long enough to discover that there is something real between them, and then that's it. It resonates with me because I've always been hesitant to articulate my truest desires, because that seems like the best way to ensure they won't be reached. Not that I'm afraid of dying, particularly, upon finding happiness - more that notion that if you name what you want, the universe will snatch it away. For "universe" you can read chance, evil demons, God's sick sense of humor or what-have-you, but the result is the same. You get what you want, and it's either very short-lived or not what you really wanted after all. I suppose that's just part of the human condition, and I am ok with that. It's the seeds of the tragedy and their fruition that gives the Romance it's capital 'R', I'm sure.
So the end result is it's a well done, worth-while film. Gorgeous for both the scenery and the people. If you can handle historical fiction behaving like, well, fiction then I'd say it was definitely worth your time.