There is one name that stands out on this film’s cast list and that name is – yes you guessed it – Daniel Radcliffe.
There has been much media hype surrounding this latest instalment of Daniel’s profound film career and many if not all film buffs will have been chomping at the bit to see if Daniel can sustain his magical aurora outside of Hogwarts.
The film is set in a rustic, bleak environment which complements the plotline greatly. The original novel by Susan Hill lays the foundation for the film’s storyline and James Watkins (director) has managed to traverse the ground between movie and novel quite gracefully.
Early on in the film we find that our young Edwardian protagonist is dispatched to a barren, destitute house on a marshy coastal area in the Midlands to deal with the affairs of a deceased widow, Mrs Drablow. Radcliffe’s character, Arthur Kipp, is rather inexperienced in his profession and this adds to the almost intense ambience surrounding the film’s eerie and eclectic backdrops.
During the film I found myself immersed in the it’s ‘goings on’ which is greatly owed to the manner in which it unfolds. Not to spoil any of the plot, but I found myself consistently anticipating what will unfold next and the it can be said that the film – being termed a thriller – achieves exactly the ‘thrills’ we have come to expect from the genre.
I shouldn’t hesitate to mention why I believe this film will succeed fairly well in the box office and that would mainly be a result of the on-point cinematography. Some films just get it right and this film is one of them. During the showing I occasionally found myself drifting off into the environment surrounding the actors and wondering what it would be like to have lived in such times and what I may have done in such a situation with the tools at my disposal. This would have been, I presume, the aim of James Watkins’ ambition and I like to give credit where credit is due so for you Mr Watkins, a riveting thumbs up.
However like the proverbial Yin & Yang, with good comes bad, and there are a couple of negative points that I picked up on throughout the film.
One thing I noticed throughout the film which many other people may not pick up on without prior notice is the almost expressionless face of Radcliffe in moments of high tension. It seems as though those many years at Hogwarts have served him well and turned him into a fearless warrior in the face of the unknown. This may have been the aim of Watkins’ plan however and I can empathise with him if it was. To create a stoic, almost dead character as the main protagonist would be obvious for the setting in which the film lies in, but there seemed to be a lack of an edge missing from Radcliffe’s performance that may have come naturally from an actor such as Douglas Booth (Pip in BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations).
I feel I should also share with you one particular niggle I had with the film, and that was the lack of emotional penetration scriptwriter Jane Goldman failed to transcribe from words to imagery. It seems to me that she had a devil of a time trying to create moments of high climax in a storyline where there is none. Many scenes end in anti-climax and as a result I found myself emotionally detached from the film somewhat. Another minor critique that applies only to people who have previously read the novel is that you will see throughout slight differences in the storyline when compared the 1983 novel, and one give away is the extended presence of one Mr Dailly.
It is with the utmost regret that I can’t say that I was entirely moved by the movie. The potential was there for an altogether brilliant recreation of a once famous novel but something was missing and that minor spanner in the works was the performance of Daniel Radcliffe. Whether it was my expectations of him or whether he truly failed to deliver are two ends of the scale I can’t seem to differentiate between. One thing is for sure though, we won’t be seeing the end of Radcliffe yet and I hope this was merely a stepping stone for the British actor to move onto bigger, brighter and more suitable roles in the near future.
A simmering 6/10
- Brilliant Directing
- Menacing Atmosphere
- Comparable to Original Novel
- Radcliffe Missing Edge
- Somewhat Anti-Climactic at Times
- Other Members of the Cast Overshadowed by Radcliffe’s Reputation