This film was directed by Julian Fellowes, who since making it, has made the hugely successful Downton Abbey tv series. Like that series, this film stars Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville, and they are joined by, amongst others, Dominic West, Pauline Collins and Timothy Spall.
Set in 1940s England, 13 year old Tolly (Alex Etel) is sent to stay with his grandmother (Maggie Smith) at her country home, which she fears she will have to sell due to money problems. Tolly’s father is fighting in WWII, and is missing in action. As his grandmother tells him about the history of the house, and Tolly’s ancestors, he finds that he is able to travel back in time to 1805 and discover secrets about his family’s past, which still resonate today…
This film is adapted from Lucy M Boston’s book ‘The Chimneys of Green Knowe’. I have not read the book, so cannot compare the two, but I did really enjoy the film. Maggie Smith is as brilliant as ever, as the elderly lady who realises that she may have lost her beloved son, and may also have to give up her lifelong home. Alex Etel does a fine job as Tolly, and credit should also be given to the supporting cast, especially Pauline Collins and Timothy Spall, as two members of the staff at the house. Dominic West is great (as ever), although here he plays a particularly unpleasant character – I personally prefer to see him in nicer roles!
There is a parallel storyline; the story from 1805 – which centres around Tolly’s ancestors, the kindly Captain Oldknow (Hugh Bonneville) and his selfish wife Maria (Carice van Houten) and their children Sefton; a spoiled, selfish young man (Douglas Booth) and Susan, a kindly, blind girl (Eliza Bennett). Into their lives comes Jacob (Kwayedza Kureya), a former slave who escapes from captivity with the help of Captain Oldknow and joins the household as a companion for Susan, much to the chagrin of Sefton. The second storyline is of course set in 1940s, with Tolly and his grandmother worrying about what has become of Tolly’s father (and we do find out), while at the same time getting to know and understand each other.
I thought the film was incredibly well acted, and both story lines were very touching. So much so, that I ended up in tears at the end, which is not something that happens very often when I watch a film. This was just a lovely film, well acted, well told, and very emotive. Highly recommended to all fans of period drama.
Year of release: 2009
Director: Julian Fellowes
Writers: Lucy M. Boston (book), Julian Fellowes
Main cast: Maggie Smith, Alex Etel, Eliza Bennett, Dominic West, Timothy Spall, Hugh Bonneville, Douglas Booth, Kwayedza Kureya