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Seven years pass (though nobody ages a day) and Liz tracks down her ex-lover and the child she's never forgotten and whose name she never knew. The lovesick heroine breaks her contract by taking a pseudonym and becoming governess to 7-year-old Louisa (Dominique Belacourt). Charles returns from a business trip to discover Elisabeth installed and, after initial panic, their old passion is reignited.
There are several obstacles in the path of their romance, though, including Charles' devoted sister-in-law (Lia Williams), who's desperately in love with him, and his charming American business partner (Kevin Anderson), who's got eyes for Elisabeth. And of course, there's the matter of his wife, who's been comatose for a decade.
On the beginning Charles wants to dump the governess but can't without revealing the tryst, the nanny will not leave but cannot tell her hateful child who she is, and the child is a seed so bad even Mary Poppins would run from the mansion screaming.
the love between Charles and Elisabeth becomes too much to hide, and Louisa
learns the truth, Charles euthanizes his invalid
wife to help her and them both.
|CAST & STAFF|
says Nicholson, "has a way of punishing most brutally those who treat
it too lightly, and both of our
characters, over the course of the film, will come to know that said phrase is not as comfortingly hackneyed as many would like to believe."
Nicholson resurrects long-abandoned stylistics (such as the use of montage sequences to convey the passage of time) and does so with an elegant hand, thereby invoking a sense of regret over the passing of a period in film when people could create love stories without always steeping every facet of the production in a gallon of irony. Perhaps Firelight might be the start of a limited, but welcome, trend, mean some of critics.
by Nic Morris, who contrasts
the muted, magical oranges and golds of firelight
with the blues, grays and whites of a drafty mansion, Firelight has the
feel of a mystery tale told round the campfire.
|SOPHIE MARCEAU & STEPHEN DILLANE|
Sophie marceau plays here an impoverished Swiss governess who must give up her child to free her father from debt.
"Sophie Marceau, takes on the role of the Swiss mother/governess with gracious intelligence. One of the finest actresses of today, Marceau has tremendous presence and can speak volumes with a single glance. As Elisabeth, she delivers a few calmly delivered lines that quietly slice up everyone in the room. All in all, a very satisfying performance," comment Sophie's performance Heather Clisby.
Theatre vet Dillane, working with entirely different colors, creates
a somber, almost melancholy Charles who at center is full of life's bright
energy, only awaiting release. Stephen Dillane ("Welcome to Sarajevo")
doesn't help matters with his tepid performance, but his problems have
more to do with the script than his style.
Nicholson creates a bare breathing space, a spiracle of air, for the passionate fire first lit on the Normandy coast to reignite between Elisabeth and Charles--and for Elisabeth to reunite with her little girl. A wintry Normandy coast provides a fitting cold-and-storm backdrop to the couple's initial physical liaisons, and their playing is note-perfect for their characters and for their times. But time itself is too telescoped; on Friday evening, Elisabeth takes to their bed half-clothed ("Will this do?" she asks) and fully repressed; by Sunday, she is in naked abandon. Matters aren't helped by poor, XXX-production looping of her exaltations, or by composer Christopher Gunning's too-pretty accompaniments.
"Film is woefully chaste--not counting some missionary-position moaning that isn't appreciably sexier than the scene in which Elisabeth is shown delivering the baby," says Rob Nelson.
"Otherwise, this aloof melodrama only articulates its "passion" when Dillane gives the viewer a quick flash of his penis. For some, that moment may be worth the price of admission, but rather than review the star's anatomy here, I'll simply mention that only self-punishing connoisseurs of bad big-screen soapers could get even a giggle out of this." - another critic's opinion.
As a result, Firelight is not an easy film to watch (although its cinematography, by Nic Morris, does make the film a treat for the eye, as Morris creates a nineteenth-century world full of wistfully gauzy images that tend to transcend the merely visual and verge upon other-worldly), it is a film that rewards your suffering rather than exacerbating it, despite a bizarrely-contrived ending.
There are elements of many favorite old movies here, stolen and well used. The lovers are kept apart by social restrictions, by family obligation and all the stuff that we like to see people overcome in movies even when we choose not to overcome it in our own lives. And the motherless child is difficult and cruel to the governess, not realizing that Elisabeth is her mother. Lots of opportunity for nicely resolvable dramatic conflict lies therein.
For someone who takes his material so very seriously, Nicholson is careless with details. How did Elisabeth and Charles come into contact with each other in the first place? Personal ads seem unlikely. How did Charles make sure that he'd be the one to pick up the seemingly abandoned baby? Since we're decades away from intravenous feeding, how has Charles' absolutely rigid wife managed to survive 10 long years? If Constance, who not surprisingly is secretly in love with Charles herself, yields gracefully to Elisabeth and departs, where and how will she live? The more "Firelight" sputters the less you care about the answers.
Their ultimate unification, and "Firelight" itself, make for a sort of art-house version of "Love Story," but it's something for which no one will never have to say they're sorry.