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I Capture The Castle (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director, writer and producer commentary; Interview with Romola Garari. Trailer.

ONE of the joys of reviewing movies is being able to hail the arrival of an exciting new talent, whenever one comes along.

Romola Garai is one such talent, for having appeared in several TV productions, most notably the BBC's Daniel Deronda last November, she makes her big screen breakthrough in this amicable British coming-of-age drama, which manages to transcend the staid view of romantic period dramas to become something quietly affecting.

Garai is the glue which holds the film together and her performance is mesmerising, expertly combining the mixed up frustrations of a teenage girl, struggling to cope with her feelings for two men, while trying to assist her father get over a severe case of writers' block.

The story, based on the popular novel by Dodie Smith (who also penned 101 Dalmatians), takes place in mid-1930s Suffolk, as Garai's aspiring writer, Cassandra Mortmain, documents the lives of her oddball family from the downtrodden confines of the dilapidated castle her father brought them to at the height of his success.

Resigned to living in the shadow of her beautiful sister, Rose (Rose Byrne), and prone to the oddball nuances of her eccentric father (Bill Nighy), Cassandra suddenly finds herself thrust into a complex moral dilemma when the rich Americans who inherit their estate come to visit, providing a potential love interest for both of the sisters.

On the one hand, there is the academic Simon Cotton (Henry Thomas), who warms to the charms of both sisters, while on the other, is his younger brother, Neil (Marc Blucas), who also secretly covets Rose.

Cassandra, therefore, is forced to suffer in silence, as she develops feelings for the sensitive Simon, while trying to fend off the amorous advances of the family's gardener (Henry Cavill), whom she sees as a brother, rather than a lover.

I Capture The Castle is undoubtedly the type of movie which is designed to appeal to the girls more than the guys, but as chick flicks go, it is far less saccharine than most.

Nicely directed (by Tim Fywell), and beautifully performed, it is an absorbing little movie, which offers a welcome alternative to the crass coming of age sagas being churned out by Hollywood at the moment.

And while the movie is set in a bygone era, Fywell should be applauded for lending it a contemporary edge, with Garai's written observations, in particular, evoking memories of a younger Bridget Jones (before the mid-life crisis sets in!).

Of the support cast, Tara Fitzgerald crops up as Nighy's latest wife, offering her the chance to appear nude once again, while Byrne, as the eldest sister, manages to toy with the audiences' perceptions, as she flits from loveable daydreamer, to money-obsessed wife in the blink of an eye.

But the real kudos belong to the ever-excellent Nighy, whose own emotional journey is tremendously affecting, and to Garai, who simply commands the screen, whenever she is on it.

The film would stand or fall on whether audiences identify with her plight, yet Garai effortlessly has you rooting for her, getting the mix of naive vulnerability and feisty teenager just right.

Her performance, alone, makes a less than remarkable story one which is genuinely worth seeing and, with Nicholas Nickelby and Havanna Nights (the sequel to Dirty Dancing) still to come, marks her out as a name to watch for the future.

 

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