Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wasted on the young

I don't know if you've noticed, but children are not idiots. Not all of them, anyway. And you can speak to them as if they're going to be adults someday and be rewarded for the effort. The makers of I Capture The Castle (2003) have done so, and while they haven't been showered with Shrek-type riches, I suspect their work will be looked at respect and affection for a long time.

This would follow suit for the book Castle is based on, which is evidently a Young Adult favorite in Britain. It's a blend of coming-of-age story with eccentric-family story. And there is an interesting dichotomy between the beauty of the film's images and the messiness of the relationships in it. Nothing quite works out as you expect and that is quite admirable.

The story is told by the aptly-named Cassandra, a very smart 17-year-old girl bubbling at the frontier of love and longing, but still able to view her disintegrating family with an unbiased eye. Father is both genius and failure, stepmother both muse and betrayer, sister both princess and harlot. The charming Americans who turn up as neighbors and landlords are both saviors and destroyers.

Children's literature (and the films based on it) isn't supposed to be like that. We should be able to tell good from bad, fair from foul. The castle is charming and magnificent on the outside and completely barren and crumbling inside, like the family itself, like the promises of the adult world. Leave it to a British film to make muddling-through into a virtue--but muddling without compromising yourself. Write for passion, marry for love, work for life.

One cannot pass on this film without noting the high proportion of young actors whose careers continued to blossom after this film. Cassandra is played by Romola Garai, from New Moon and Emma on Masterpiece Classics; her sister is played by Rose Byrne of Damages; Henry Cavill, seen in Whatever Works; Marc Blucas, previously known from the TV version of Buffy, and who is even busier today. One suspects that director Tim Fywell, who was in his mid-50s when he made the film, was in touch with his inner teen.

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