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I Capture The Castle
cast: Marc Blucas, Tara Fitzgerald, Bill Nighy, Henry Thomas, and Sinead Cusack

director: Tim Fywell

108 minutes (PG) 2002
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
1936. The Mortmain family live in a castle in Suffolk, for which they pay no rent. James Mortmain (Bill Nighy) is a well-known novelist, but he has been blocked for 12 years. He lives with his second wife Topaz (Tara Fitzgerald), an eccentric artist given to communing naked with nature. With them are two daughters by James' deceased first wife. The elder, Rose (Rose Byrne) despairs of the family's impoverished state and yearns to marry into money. Her younger sister Cassandra (Romola Garai) narrates this as she writes in her diary.
   Things suddenly change after the owner of the estate dies and two handsome American brothers Simon (Henry Thomas) and Neil (Marc Blucas) inherit the property. When they arrive, Cassandra can see that her family's lives will be different from now on.
   Dodie Smith is possibly best known for writing One Hundred And One Dalmatians, but this is her other best-known work, a novel which has been a favourite of teenage girls (fewer boys, I'd suspect) since its publication in 1949. It was nostalgic then, for a way of life that was destroyed by World War II, and it's even more so now. It gets a full-blown 'heritage' production, with high production values (the Isle of Man and Wales standing in for Suffolk), lush photography from Richard Greatrex and engaging performances from a very strong cast. As a story, I Capture The Castle is a little on the leisurely side, and a militantly old-fashioned story about privileged folk, which according to taste will either be its great strength or its fatal weakness or irrelevance. Even so, it's an attractive film and genuine family viewing. It did middling business at the cinema, which would indicate that people who complain that they don't make films like they used to don't support such films when they do get made.
   As an aside, Tara Fitzgerald's nude scene (not even full-frontal and certainly not in a sexual context) caused censorship problems in the USA, causing this quite innocuous film to be given a R rating, banning unaccompanied children under 17. Meanwhile, films with much more sexual innuendo, not to mention violence, are given more lenient ratings every month. The BBFC's PG rating is far more sensible, and parents should only be advised of that nude scene and some mild sexual references.
   The DVD has an anamorphic transfer in a ratio of 1.85:1. Very handsome it looks too, but it should be noted that this probably isn't the original aspect ratio. I didn't see the film at the cinema, but several reference sources give its aspect ratio as 2.35:1 (which is also apparently the ratio of the Region 1 and Region 4 DVDs). The film was shot in Super 35, it would seem with a "common topline," and this 1.85:1 version looks like it has gained extra picture area at the bottom of the screen. The soundtrack is Dolby digital 5.1 and there are English subtitles for the hard of hearing on the main feature only. The main extra is a lively commentary by Tim Fywell, screenwriter Heidi Thomas and producer David Parfitt. In addition there is an eight-minute interview with Romola Garai (the interviewer is unidentified but sounds like Heidi Thomas). Finally, we have the theatrical trailer (two minutes).

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