Top critical review
7 people found this helpful
on 22 March 2012
I checked this DVD out of the library, largely on the strength of the cast, as I enjoyed Romola Garai in "The Hour", and I always enjoy Bill Nighy, who, in this film, turns in a powerful, if exasperating, performance as the has-been novelist. I was unaware of the book, which so many reviewers have praised, and I must say that the film, although lovely to look at and lyrically acted, would, in itself, not have inspired me to read it.
I found the movie curiously static and slightly uncomfortable in its uncompromising portrayal of a family on the perpetual verge of deterioration, due to what must be--although it is never stated outright--the father's chronic depression. It was as if the castle, into which the father had, ten years previously, moved his brood--ostensibly to ignite his literary spark--had entrapped the entire family into a life sentence of despair, from which there was no foreseeable parole. I was not sure I wanted to spend my evening with them; and the rather convenient solution to their problems--as depicted in the film--failed to convince me. Furthermore, the flashbacks did not always clarify the scenario, although the dream sequences in the imaginings of Cassandra were quite lovely.
Director Tim Fywell, whose "Cambridge Spies" is one of my favourite television dramas, did not seem able to pull this story together, although it was full of what might have become magical moments, with thought and a perhaps some pacing in respect to the scenario. And the performances--Garai as Cassandra; the young woman, who played her sister Rose; Tara Fitzgerald, as the former artist's model and author's muse; the little boy who played the brother; and, of course, Nighy, were outstanding.
Watching the film was rather like watching a beautiful butterfly with damaged wings, fluttering, but not quite able to lift off and rise into the air. Rather sad, because what could have been a captivating film simply didn't realise its full potential.