Our rating: 3 out of 5
reviewed by: Charity Bishop
The first time Cassandra (Romola Garai) saw the Scottish castle, she fell in love with it. A magical place, she was certain her father could write the next great classic, a follow-up to his best-selling novel. Twelve years have passed. They're two years overdue on the rent. Her father hasn't written a single paragraph, much less an entire novel. They now have a new stepmother, Topaz (Tara Fitzgerald), who likes dying their clothes on a regular basis and going for nude walks in the rain in order to "connect with nature." Cassandra's older sister Rose (Rose Byrne) is frustrated with their poverty. The roof leaks, the castle is drafty, and there are no eligible men within a hundred miles... that is until their landowner returns home. Simon Cotton (Henry Thomas) is handsome, accomplished, and charming. Rose knows all she has to do is impress him enough to gain an offer of marriage.
Simon's brother James (Bill Nighy) has been raised in America and believes Rose is a "gold digger." He's not fond of Cassandra's family, who is continuing to feel the effects of malicious gossip about one of her father's violent temper fits. Thrown into the mix is Cassandra's own friendship with Stephen (Henry Cavill), a local boy who hasn't been paid in six months but still helps out around the house anyway. Her stepmother also harbors growing concerns that she cannot "inspire" her husband like she wants to. When they become entangled with the Cottons, Cassandra begins to have conflicting emotions. Rose loves the wealth such a position would bring her but doesn't seem to care about her fiance... while Cassandra realizes with growing uncertainty that she does. The story, while being somewhat odd, has a very worthwhile feeling to it. There are enough childish antics to be believable (one memorable occasion has the girls inheriting their aunt's ghastly fur coats and James spinning a story about mistaking them for bears) while never quite becoming overly corny.
"Eccentric" would be good praise for I Capture the Castle. Most of the characters are unique and likable but also human. Even though we hate Rose for being a gold digger, we can also empathize with her plight. Cassandra is going through the awkward stages of early puppy love while dealing with growing up. Her father is struggling with guilt, shame, and writer's block. Even her little brother has a great deal to contribute. You can tell where the story is going at times but the journey is always pleasant. The very great shame is that they felt the need to incorporate some nudity, which could have just as easily been implied without becoming graphic or offensive. Aside from this element, the film suffers from very little by the way of objectionable content aside from some warped religious theology. Rose makes a "wish on the family gargoyle" that her life would change. (Her little brother jokes, "Nothing is wrong. Rose is just dabbling in the occult.")
Ery year on Midsummer's Eve the girls dance around the fire and sing. Cassandra says it started out as a joke but then they thought "the gods" might actually be able to hear them and now they feel compelled to do it. Topaz walks out into the rain and throws off her slicker. The camera focuses on frontal upper nudity for several revolting minutes before shifting elsewhere. Cassandra is taking a bath when two strangers come into the room; they fail to see her behind the curtain. (She covers up with a long towel and comes out.) Several times she imagines various situations, such as her sister Rose on her wedding night sitting on the edge of the bed looking nervous as Simon comes in with his shirt off. When she starts liking Simon, the dream turns into her seated there instead of Rose. She envisions various endings to a passionate kiss. During a time alone, Simon kisses Cassandra and then tells her not to make a big deal out of it. Cassandra sunbathes nude on the roof; we briefly see a far-off shot of her laying on the roof with her arms covering anything inappropriate.
After a misunderstanding, she goes into the woods to reassure Stephen that she still likes him. The two kiss, pull at one another's clothing, and fall to the ground. His hand starts to slide up her leg but then he stops and says they really shouldn't go any further. Unfortunately he also agrees to pose for some pictures and it's implied that he becomes involved with a photographer who is much older than himself. There are mild references to prostitution (made in a humorous manner). With only a half dozen mild profanities (most of them British) and two abuses of Christ's name, I Capture the Castle could have very easily been a PG movie. This film is after all catered to young adults and teens with its youthful characters. It could probably be edited successfully with little trouble. There are some worthwhile lessons about finding yourself, learning to love another person, and not settling for second best. I liked the ambiguous ending because it implied that through her adventure Cassandra learned a great deal about herself. She helps her father overcome his writer's block, puts their family back together, and concludes that she's had a taste of love and someday the real thing will come to her.
If you're able to do some skipping with the DVD, I Capture the Castle is a worthwhile and interesting film that, if nothing else, will set you to thinking about the meaning of life, love, and other mysteries.