I Capture the Castle (2003)

Romola Garai stars in I Capture the Castle
It has all the elements of a fantastic film — an all-star cast, fabulous production design, a gorgeous score (from Dario Marianelli) and a script based on a book by famed author Dodie Smith (she also wrote 101 Dalmatians). Told from the point of view of the middle child, Cassandra, as she writes in her diary, we see a struggling author and father wrestle his demons and attempt to save his crumbling family.  Set in 1930s England, the family lives in a castle ruin that leaks, has draughts and empty cupboards.  Yet they manage to scrape by with a forgiving landlord and a fairly productive garden.  

The girls fall in and out of love, explore the metropolis, struggle with growing up, and get caught in adventures.  Sweet, but not saccharine; funny, but not hilarious; poignant, but not didactic; this adaptation settles and hits a stride nicely.  I watch it at least twice a month, if I can.  Now available on Netflix Instant.  Its R rating is one of the mysteries of the MPAA.  It should easily by a PG-13, if not a PG.

The cast includes the brilliant Romola Garai (Atonement, Scoop),  the stalwart Bill Nighy, Marc Blucas (of “Angel”), Henry Thomas (E.T., Legends of the Fall), handsome Henry Cavill (The Count of Monte Cristo) and a handful of other faces familiar to watchers of BBC. 

A perfect movie for a rainy afternoon.  Make a pot of tea and enjoy. 


The Orphanage (2007) / El Orfanato

I was raised on scary movies. I actually wore out the tapes my parents had made of Rear Window, Vertigo and North by Northwest.  I remember begging them to not turn the channel when Poltergeist came on.  I was four.  So it’s hard to surprise me (or scare me) with modern movies.  They generally have nothing new to say and I’ve figured out “whodunit” before the opening credits are over.  The Orphanage is a refreshing wind that shakes the trees and makes the door creak.  

It is the debut outing of Spanish director of Juan Antonio Bayona, heavily supported by producer Guillermo del Toro.  Laura (Belen Rueda) purchases the orphanage where she grew up, until being adopted.  Married and a mother, she decides to reclaim the crumbling but comforting building and open it once again, this time as a home for children with various disabilities.  But when Simon, her son, disappears during the grand opening, she makes every effort to find him – even asking for help from the ghosts of her childhood playmates. 

The first time you watch this, you will be frightened and emotionally exhausted.  But when you look back on its various moments, you will realize you were only scared because their meaning was unknown.  The subtitles are no problem.  In fact, the use of the Catalan dialect only enhances the mystery.  

Do not watch alone. 


Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)

Based on a true story, this lively and sweet tale is not to be missed.  Mrs. Henderson (Dame Judi Dench) purchases an abandoned London theatre on the eve of WW2.  When the English are searching for any sense of levity while under attack from German Luftwaffe raids, The Windmill Theatre puts on spectacular revues — some of them nude.  Faced with begin shut down for indecency, Mrs. Henderson instead creates tableaus where the girls do not move and can therefore be considered stationary art. 

Dench and Bob Hoskins make a charming and winning couple as they attempt to keep the theatre afloat.  Christopher Guest is an unlikely but great choice for Lord Cromer, responsible for giving the Crown’s approval (or denial) of the theatre’s standing.  As funny as it is affecting, it is a reminder of the human spirit’s determination to make life worth living.  Mrs. Henderson herself might have been the inspiration for the unused poster of England.
Enjoy in good health, among friends.

3 thoughts on “Most Underrated Films of the Decade: Part 1”

  1. Meaghan I totally agree. The Orphanage was a wonderful movie. It was very suspenseful as you really didn’t know what was going to happen. Loved it and tried to tell others to watch it. A lot of people get turned off subtitles- I have no idea why. I’m going to add it to my DVD collection one day. As for I capture the castle-lovely and what an incredible place to live! Haven’t watched Mrs Henderson can’t believe I haven’t watched a Judy Dench movie!

  2. I've seen two of the three. Really loved I Capture the Castle, the movie has a great feeling of despair without being desperate. And I love a lot of the Spanish horror movies. The Orphanage was excellent.

  3. I've seen two of the three. Really loved I Capture the Castle, the movie has a great feeling of despair without being desperate. And I love a lot of the Spanish horror movies. The Orphanage was excellent.

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