The Woman in White (1997)

Reviewer: Melinda Lav.


It starts out like many other Victorian films. There is Marian (Tara Fitzgerald) and her younger half-sister Laura Fairlie (Justine Waddell). Laura, who will soon be rich with an upcoming inheritance, is soon to be married to Sir Percival Glyde, and she is everything a blushing bride-to-be should be, or at least seems to be. Along comes a resident drawing tutor for the girls, and they welcome his instruction and friendship readily. However, the instructor, Mr. Walter Hartright (Andrew Lincoln), has no knowledge of Laura's engagement, and finds himself falling in love with her beauty and fine character, and she becomes almost equally enamored. And then, there is the woman in white. Hartright first sees her on his way to Limmeridge house where the Fairlies live. He is on a deserted road in the middle of the night when suddenly a hand grasps his shoulder. He jerks around and there is the mysterious woman, speaking frightenedly in riddles and nonsensical babblings, clearly terrified and apparently in fear of coming into contact with a certain Baronet. Who is this woman? And what connection does she have with Sir Percival Glyde? Percival claims she is insane and has escaped from an asylum. But should Laura and Marian listen to her warnings against Glyde? Or are they only the ramblings of a mad woman?


Mr. Hartright is then brought to shame and dismissed from Limmeridge for apparent bad conduct, and Laura shortly becomes Lady Glyde, getting whisked off on an ideal honeymoon with her new husband. Marian has been invited to live with the Glydes to keep Laura company, and she graciously accepts the offer. However, upon the return of the newlyweds, Marian finds Laura to be very strangely distant, and Percival reports that a distant cousin is soon to make a visit there at Blackwater Park. Marian is bewildered as to what this all can mean, until Laura -- upon a middle-of-the-night frantic visit to Marian's room--promises to reveal all the next morning. What Marian learns that next day shocks and horrifies her. Percival wants Laura's money and he will do anything -- positively anything, Laura believes -- to get it. Marian and Laura have only three allies left: the woman in white; Perival's cousin, Count Fosco; and the Fairlie's lawyer, Mr. Gilmore.


But how do they know whom they can really trust? And will Mr. Gilmore get Marian's frantic note in time? In time for what, the sisters can only dread to imagine. On top of all this the woman in white, later identified as Anne Catherick, makes a mention of Mr. Fairlie's last will, which apparently has not been discovered. Marian and Laura have no clue as to what the will entails, or where it could possibly be hidden. Why does Percival seem so terrified of it? The answers all seem to lie in the mind of the apparently insane Anne. They key to unveiling these mysteries, however, are as hidden and secluded as the asylum Percival has hidden Anne away in. Hope and time are hung on a thin thread for the Marian and her sister, and the thread rapidly gets thinner and thinner. I just completed watching this two-hour movie for the third time, and hardly know the words to describe it. The suspense, thrill, and mystery in this film are wonderfully crafted and quite intense. You'll find yourself barely daring to breathe as the quickly moving story unravels in very surprising ways. The music composed for each scene is extremely well done and very appropriate. The costumes, though not extremely fancy, are fitting for the characters and their positions. You will find the unique camera angles and filming techniques to add much flavor and interest to this movie. 


The biggest flaw in The Woman in White are several holes in the plot. If you read the book (as I am doing right now), many things will become much clearer. Regardless of the slight confusions, however, the movie deserves a resounding thumbs up in all other areas. I would give a caution to younger audiences, though. Because of the intensity of the rather dark storyline and some of the topics (which deem it a PG rating), this movie is only appropriate for those 13 years old and up. I am not aware of any blatant bad language in this movie, although I could have missed a few ill spoken words. Yes, it does start out like many other Victorian movies, but it surely does not end that way! I invite you to see this intriguing near masterpiece of a movie, so you too can be stirred by the deep emotions portrayed, awed by the bravery of Marian, made breathless by the surprising plot turns and intense moments, and inspired to find out the mystery behind the illusive woman in white.


Sexual Content:
Implied abuse (sexual toward a wife) adultery.
A woman is thrown out of a building for opium addiction (faked), a woman shows another woman the bruises on her arms from her husband.

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