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Three orphans, Pauline (Emma Watson), Petrova (Yasmin Paige) and Posy (Lucy Boynton) are adopted by Professor Matthew Brown, nicknamed Gum (Richard Griffiths), an eccentric geologist and raised by his niece Sylvia (Emilia Fox). Each girl has a dream: Pauline longs to be an actress, Petrova wants to be an aviator, while Posy seems born to be a ballerina. But dreams are put aside when Gum does not return from an expedition and the family finds themselves in financial difficulties and struggle to survive. An unexpected opportunity arises to join the theatre, when the girls discover their special talents.

Review by Louise Keller:
'There's a way around everything, if you stop and think,' says Victoria Wood's Nana, when the odds seem unsurmountable. The ballet shoes of the title are symbolic, not indicative, in this heart warming story about family and dreams. Set in the 1920s and based on a novel by Noel Streatfeild, this is the story about three young orphan girls who dream big and vow to get their names in the history books. There are plenty of pleasures in this involving and uplifting tale which the young protagonists aspire to be actors, aviators and ballerinas.

It is an unlikely environment for orphans, this house filled with relics and artefacts and owned by an eccentric geologist with a wooden leg called Gum (Richard Griffiths). When he returns from his extensive travels, he brings three orphan babies on whom he bestows the surname of Fossil. It is just as well, Nana and his adopted niece Sylvia (Emilia Fox) are good with children, because it is left to them to bring them up. The film's heart is Sylvia, who struggles with health and financial pressures when Gum disappears. Necessity is the mother of invention and when Sylvia takes in borders, life's direction changes. There's an evolving romance between Sylvia and Marc Warren's charming Mr Simpson while characters like Lucy Cohu's colourful life-loving Theo Dane and the two retired doctors (Gemma Jones, Harriet Walter) add to the mix.

Of course, the film focuses mainly on the young girls and their journey, which begins when the door of opportunity for each of them opens at the local theatre. This is Emma Watson's first role outside the Harry Potter franchise and although she is not stretched, she makes the temperamental Pauline appealing. Lucy Boynton is sweet as the airplane-loving Posy who dreams of finding roads in the sky and Yasmin Paige is impressive as Petrova, who is determined to be a ballerina. Eileen Atkins has presence as the revered Russian ballet mistress who promises to make a wonderful artist out of Petrova.

Published December 18, 2008

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(UK, 2007)

CAST: Emma Watson, Emilia Fox, Victoria Wood, Yasmin Paige, Lucy Boynton, Richard Griffiths, Marc Warren, Lucy Cohu, Gemma Jones

PRODUCER: Piers Wenger

DIRECTOR: Sandra Goldbacher

SCRIPT: Heidi Thomas, (novel by Noel Streatfeild)


EDITOR: Adam Recht

MUSIC: Kevin Sargent


RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes




DVD RELEASE: November 1, 2008

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