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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 Morice) 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 honourable.

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.

Published December 4, 2004

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

DIRECTOR: Tim Fywell

SCRIPT: Heidi Thomas (novel, Dodie Smith)

RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 16 : 9

SPECIAL FEATURES: Original movie trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: December 3, 2003

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