Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 1998. Arts Council of England, British Broadcasting Corporation, British Screen Productions, Pandora Cinema, Parallax Pictures. Screenplay by Sandra Goldbacher. Cinematography by Ashley Rowe. Produced by Sarah Curtis. Music by Ed Shearmur. Production Design by Sarah Greenwood. Costume Design by Caroline Harris. Film Editing by Isabelle Lorente.
Sumptuous period piece by first-time director Sandra Goldbacher, about a young Jewish girl (Minnie Driver) in 19th-century England who chooses to take on a job as a governess for a Christian family. Her desire is to avoid an arranged marriage that is suggested to her when her father dies and leaves her family with a good name but a mountain of debt. Changing her name to Mary Blackchurch to avoid her employers’ knowing her heritage, Driver soon gets in good with the family, becoming a lab assistant to the photographer father (Tom Wilkinson), becomes his lover, and then is enamoured of his son (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Harriet Walter is positively creepy as the matriarch of the household, who eventually becomes suspicious of the young woman who spends her days in her husband’s laboratory. The film is as lush as can be, filled with directorial flourishes and, because it relies on Driver’s talent, always compelling viewing even when the heroine behaves somewhat insensibly towards the end.