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Suffolk, 1934. 17 year-old Cassandra Mortmain (Romola Garai) lives in a dilapidated castle with her eccentric and impoverished family. Twelve years ago her father (Bill Nighy) published his brilliant debut novel and has not been able to write a word since. Cassandra's beautiful sister Rose (Rose Byrne) dreams of marrying a rich man; stepmother Topaz (Tara Fitzgerald) likes to stand naked in the fields; younger brother Thomas (Joe Sowerbutts) is a precocious know-it-all and the family's handsome hired help Stephen (Henry Cavill) hasn't been paid in years. With no food on the table and two years rent owing, the Mortmain's precarious existence is shaken by the arrival of American brothers Simon (Henry Thomas) and Neil Cotton (Marc Blucas), who have inherited the estate on which the castle stands. When Rose declares her intentions to win Simon's hand in marriage, Cassandra becomes her accomplice, only to later discover her sister's intentions are far from honourabl

Review by Louise Keller:
An enchanting coming of age story, I Capture The Castle is a young girl’s recollections of her eccentric family, her first kiss and her resolution for no compromise. Based on the novel by Dodie Smith, who is mostly remembered for her beloved story about the 101 Dalmations, this is a story whose images will haunt you as much as its emotions. In the very first scene, Cassandra replays in her mind an idyllic childhood memory of a family picnic, symbolising a perfect day. And often such scenes that live in our memories are not as perfect as we may remember them; Cassandra retrospectively looks for that ominous black cloud or indeed any sign that might indicate when the perfection would end. Living life in a majestic and picturesque castle may seem romantic and enticing, but the reality of cold nights and hungry stomachs is closer to the mark. Cassandra spends her days with her failed writer-father Topaz, her eccentric artist stepmother who delights in exposing herself in all extremes of weather to relieve her tension, her young impressionable brother and ambitious older sister Rose (the beautiful one), who would marry absolutely anyone (even a chimpanzee) for money. When two strangers arrive at their doorstep (or moat to be precise), life changes for everyone. As the circumstances change, so do the relationships between the two sisters, father and stepmother and ever-faithful domestic Steven, whose semblance to the Greek Gods goes unnoticed by the one person whose affections he seeks. We glimpse life through Cassandra’s innocent and naïve eyes, as she dreams of heaven and bluebells, and that much dreamed about first-kiss that will change everything. Cinematically stunning with its gorgeous settings of a picture-book castle surrounded by lush fields of grassy fields and cloudless skies, the film is a treat to look at. But it’s the emotions that strongly connect us to the characters: we are endeared to the young protagonist thrown head first into the game of love without knowing the rules. Romola Garai is lovely as Cassandra (remniscent of a young Joan Fontaine), while Rose Byrne is bewitching as the spoilt temptress. Everyone is perfectly cast – from Tara Fitzgerald’s extroverted Topaz to James, the tortured writer who has imprisoned himself in a creative void. It’s a gentle, enjoyable film that delights at every turn and entertains us with its cluster of unconventional and colourful characters.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
But for her reluctance to dictate the plot of her unfinished manuscript to an MGM secretary in 1943, Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle would have made it to the screen sixty years ago. Eventually published in 1948, Smith's funny and charming work has now been filmed in the tax-friendly environs of The Isle of Man. This comedy of manners among poverty stricken tenants and their frightfully wealthy neighbours shares some common ground with Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm. Both feature plucky young heroines whose sensible actions bring order and purpose to a chaotic world. In this cold comfort castle it's Cassandra who listens attentively and writes entries in a diary charting her family's decline into the penury that inspires Rose to declare she'd be happy to burn the house down if only they could afford to buy the matches. With grim humour delivering steady chuckles and the unexplained presence of stepmother Topaz providing an element of mystery, the film ambles along pleasantly enough before the Americans arrive and really takes off once Simon and Neil Cotton come calling at the castle. Rose setting her sights on snaring older brother Simon and saving the family in the process shifts the tone toward romantic drama and allows the character of Cassandra and the wonderful performance of 21 year-old feature film debutant Ramola Garai to shine. As the love quadrangle between the Cotton boys and the Mortmain girls deepens, the camera moves steadily closer on Garai's face, asking her to carry lengthy, pivotal scenes in extreme close-up. She doesn't fail and what's written on her face says even more than the words in Heidi Thomas' screenplay. This film soars when Garai is on screen and we hear the increasingly world-wise commentary she enters in her diary. Some other elements are less successful. Her father's attempts to overcome writer's block aren't too convincing and the humour is rather heavy-handed in the latter stages but the core of the drama is handled with a delicate mix of power and grace by director Tim Fywell. Performances are as impeccable as you'd expect in any adaptation of a cherished British period novel and Australian Rose Byrne (Two Hands, The Goddess of 1967) acquits herself well in her major international debut as the scheming husband-hunter. I Capture The Castle is a well upholstered period piece with easy charm, dramatic punch and a star performance to admire even when some of the minor details don't quite match the same high standard.

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CAST: Romola Garai, Rose Byrne, Henry Thomas, Marc Blucas, Bill Nighy, Tara Fitzgerald, Sinéad Cusack

PRODUCER: Anant Singh, David M. Thompson

DIRECTOR: Tim Fywell

SCRIPT: Heidi Thomas (novel, Dodie Smith)


EDITOR: Roy Sharman

MUSIC: Dario Marianelli


RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes



VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: December 3, 2003

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