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I Capture the Castle
2003 - R - 113 Mins.
Director: Tim Fywell
Producer: Mark Cooper
Written By: Heidi Thomas
Starring: Henry Thomas, Marc Blucas, Romola Garai, Bill Nighy, Sinead Cusack, Rose Byrne, Tara Fitzgerald
Review by: Carl Langley

But I was in E.T. my darling
I Capture the Castle is an adolescent version of Sense and Sensibility. It tells the story of two daughters from a poverty-stricken family who incipiently explore the true meaning of love, much like the Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet characters in Ang Lee’s more romantic version. Their bachelors are siblings as well and although the Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant characters were not brothers in Sense and Sensibility, they became entangled with the two sisters, much like the pigeons in I Capture the Castle.

The film takes place in England sometime during the 1930’s, yet everybody’s actions, mannerisms, and dialogue are so modernized, it might as well be present day. The setting is overwhelmingly beautiful, but fails to put the viewer in the time immemorial. The costume design is even in vogue at times; the blue dress one of the characters attires at a dance party looks like it could be fashionably manifested at an Oscar party.

The story focuses on the Mortmain family, who live in a decaying castle with no electricity, stranded to use battery-powered radios and clocks. The central character is Cassandra Mortmain (Romola Garai), the youngest daughter of two and the middle child of three. Her father, James Mortmain (Bill Nighy of Stir Crazy fame) was once an eminent author, but after serving minimal time in jail for attacking his wife, has had the case of writer’s block for twelve years. The lack of publications leads an irregular, impoverished lifestyle. The new stepmother, Topaz (Tara Fitzgerald), obtains paradise being outside in the nude during the rain or when it is sunny; it does not matter to her. The eldest sister, Rose (Rose Byrne), is severely discontent secluded to living stone-broke to the point where her intentions to disengage herself from her family are overzealous.

Two American beaus, the extremely obnoxious Neil (Marc Blucas) and the more buoyant Simon (Henry Thomas), come to visit after they inherited the estate from their deceased landlord father. Rose succeeds in making Simon fall in love with her so they can marry and rid her of insolvency. Neil despises Rose and senses her swinish desire, leaving Cassandra as the caretaker of her sister’s sophisticated relationship. All the while, Cassandra secretly falls deeply in love with Simon and through a serious of irrational events, is esteemed, glorified, brokenhearted, and crestfallen; the unusual amount of sentimentality for a seventeen-year old.

Uncoordinatedly structured, I Capture the Castle is apathetic at times, especially when it veers off into unwanted subplots; the scribal slump of the father due to the off-track sentiment of his family is incoherent and snowballs. The film confides on its actors portraying their disillusioned ethos. Blunderingly and shamefully, Neil, who is more unconstrained than the others, comes off as the most respectable character. When the film becomes emotionally knotty, it squanders the romantic side that keeps it straightforward.

I Capture the Castle features some strong performances and some unpleasant overacting. Most notable is Romola Garai (Nicholas Nickleby) who takes on the role of Cassandra with fervor and handles the fairy tale love story quite smoothly. Bill Nighy, in a role overwritten, is bizarrely amusing as the once famous author, struggling to put more than ten words onto one page. Rose Byrne (Attack of the Clones) has elegant looks, but swarms roughshod through her scenes and slowly disperses as time goes on.

The film is an adaptation of the late Dodie Smith’s (she also wrote 101 Dalmatians) 1948 novel, unread by me, and directed by a well-known stage director, Tim Fywell. At the end of I Capture the Castle, I wanted to ban myself from British romantic films, chronicled to add effect. This would be an unjust decision because superb films like Sense and Sensibility are not to be missed. The tone is similar to the film likings of Emma and the aforementioned, but fails to match their wit and style. Much like a Jane Austen book, the story is probably more appropriately entertaining turning the pages than watching its literary reflection on celluloid.
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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