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United Kingdom 2003
Directed by
Tim Fywell
111 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Ruth Williams
3.5 stars

I Capture The Castle

Synopsis: Cassandra (Romola Garia) and her sister Rose (Rose Byrne) have the kind of life many young girls could only dream of. For ten years they have lived in a castle with their father (Bill Nighy), a writer, their stepmother (not wicked), a painter and ever-hopeful muse, and their younger brother Thomas (Joe Sowerbutts). They have survived on their father’s promises and little more. However Rose is a woman now and can’t live another day as a prisoner to a life of poverty and false dreams. Change one piece on the chessboard and the whole game can suddenly look very different.

There is something very satisfying about looking in on that period in a person’s life when they move from being a child into adulthood. How will they cope with the loss of innocence that this passage so often requires? Here, we are shown the world through the eyes of seventeen year old Cassandra. The story she tells is of the time in her life when her sister Rose has her prayers answered. Rose sees her one-way ticket out of their less-than-fairytale life in the guise of the new landowner, a young American Simon Cotton (Henry Thomas), grandson of their recently deceased landlord.

There are many films that claim more or less in the tagline, "you can’t choose who you fall in love with." This film captures the complexity of this phrase and plays it back to us in so many ways that we are given the opportunity to get it over and over again. In one scene, Cassandra sits on a park bench with the young man who so obviously loves her. As she looks into her life, it is as if her eyes have been open to the rapture that love inspires as well as the pain that love can cause when it is unrequited. She thinks of her father, her mother her sister- everyone she has ever known, and she sees that until she had experienced it herself, there was no way she could understand the love or lack of love in their relationships.

As characters make sacrifices and break hearts for love, Cassandra is called upon to come to terms with the messiness that love can cause. If Rose had told the story, we would be watching a film with less heart and less intelligence. By entrusting the blank page to Cassandra, Dodie Smith, the author of the original story on which Heidi Thomas' based the script, eschews sentimentality and yet also encourages us to set aside whatever cynical notions we may have about romantic love. She invites us to step back to a time in our lives when the kind of love that would have us swoon at the sight of our loved one was a state to be desired.

The cinematography provides us with some moments very pleasing to the eye with a couple of scenes that are almost breathtaking. The character development is skilled enough to allow the audience to decide where their preferences lie. Each character is portrayed with enough empathy to see why they make their choices. I Capture The Castle is a good example of a period piece that is able to move so effortlessly into the present day.




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