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...a passionate tale of loyalty, family andparenthood...
...what began as sex, quickly becomes lovemaking...
Emotion rules what follows, in the tradition of the genre; also in the tradition, a price is paid by all.
        This thoughtful period drama from writer-turned-director William Nicholson  has some very good things to offer: a solid dramatic core, a half-dozen intriguing characters, serious themes, passionate romance and a beautifully effective evocation of the Victorian world of the 1830s. Returned to the surer soil of England, however, "Firelight" tells its next decade with near-perfect narrative
        19th century. Charles, English landowner, is the conscientious son of a dissipated lord (Joss Ackland) who is concerned that his family line be continued - and whose wife was left in a vegetative state by a riding accident. She is in a coma, to be specific (but with her eyes wide open :-)  Poor Swiss governess named Elisabeth has father who has 500 pounds debts. To spring her father from prison, Elisabeth (Sophie Marceau) has answered an advertisement for a healthy, young woman who is willing to bear the son of an English gentleman.  The terms of the agreement are that the woman will spend three nights with the man, then, when the child is born nine months later, she will give it up and make no further claim upon it. For this, she will receive 500 pounds.  The gentleman, Charles Godwin (Stephen Dillane), is well-placed in society, and, as a result, his identity must be kept a secret. All dealings with him (except the intimate ones) will be handled through intermediaries.

        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.

        When 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.

        Well known William Nicholson ("Shadowlands") has made a heart-wrenching film, both erotic and sad, sensual story about loyalty, family and a parent's devotion to her child that takes weeks to forget. For screenwriter William Nicholson, Oscar-nominated for Shadowlands, this is a landmark directorial debut.

        "Love," 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.

        Shot 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  and Stephen Dillane are talented collaborators with Nicholson, and together they have created a paean to love. Who has a romantic cell in his body, he will not be able to resist.

        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.

        National 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.
        The supporting players are strong, too. Joss Ackland plays Charles' hedonistic, money-wasting father (who imports the first polka to London) very well. We can also see Kevin Anderson as an American farmer who falls in love with Elisabeth and want to marry her. One performance is worth special notice. Lia Williams plays Goodwin's sister-in-law, who's desperately in love with him. She is so full and heartfelt that it really is worth taking one's eyes off Marceau now and again to see Williams do her stuff. Even Dominique Belcourt, as the spoiled brat, is excellent. She doesn't play the role with the abandon of a child actress enjoying it too much. Always, she makes us understand why this little girl is as she is.

Running time: 104 minutes
        As we already know, the Firelight is romance/drama directed and written by William Nicholson, produced by Brian Eastman, A Buena Vista release. Cinematography was made by Nic Morris and during film you can hear original music by Christopher Gunning.

        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.

        Here I offer you some opinions from renomed or not renomed critics. Here you can find positive critics and negative ones, too. Decide, which you will believe in and whoose critic has the same opinion as you. I haven't seen this film completely, only some smaler parts and most of critics appreciated movie negative, but I still think it can't be so bad with such good story, famous staff and delicious cast (I mean Sophie, if course ;).

       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.

Kim Williamson
        Acompelling performance that ushers Marceau decisively into the world of English-speaking prestige films.
Boston Globe
       Firelight makers continue a tradition of inimitably awful productthe Sphinx's Firelight comes with a plot so full of sap you could make syrup out of it.
Rob Nelson
       Having a charismatic star wouldn't have helped "Firelight." But it certainly wouldn't have hurt it as much as Sophie Marceau's awful lead performance.
Jeff Vice
        Sophie Marceau may be one of the more beautiful women on the screen, but she's so stiff she makes Bob Dole seem like Robin Williams. Perhaps she's better in French.
John Anderson
       If it's a talent to push overwrought melodrama to the point of parody, writer-director William Nicholson is a master.
Larry Worth
       There are no literary smarts on display and the narrative stumbles at every turn. Firelight is nothing more than a grotesquely saccharine period-piece.
Carrie Gorringe
        Every cliche found in women's gothics and weepie romances finds its way into this picture.
Mick LaSalle, Chronicle Staff Critic ©1999 San Francisco Chronicle
       Still, on the whole, "Firelight" burns with intelligence, craft and psychological resonance. It's a movie that respects both its characters and its audience.
Eleanor Ringel, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
and as usual :) :
"Firelight" is rated R for simulated sex, male and female nudity, a violent tussle and someplate-throwing, use of vulgar slang and one profanity.
 (vidcaps and full size of posters find at  Joe Tiger's page)
     LINKS - What International Movie Database says about "Firelight"? - Firelight on the German film server

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