Director Goldbacher assembled good actors, great locations, and a genuinely interesting twist with the photography, but the movie fails because the momentum slipped through her fingers.
Even with strong support from two spirited actors, Sandra Goldbacher has written and directed "The Governess" at such a slow pace that the movie sinks a little at every turn until it finally goes down like a stone. Any movie with Minnie Driver and Tom Wilkinson ought to be a winner, and when it isn't, it's someone else's fault.
Rosina Da Silva (Minnie Driver) is the spirited daughter of a charming father in a close-knit Jewish community in 1840's London. After her father is murdered, Rosina refuses an arranged marriage that might save the family from debt, and leaves for a position as governess with the Cavendish family on the remote Scottish Isle of Skye. Anticipating the anti-Semitism of a Christian home, Rosina becomes Mary Blackchurch, gentile.
Rosina's new surroundings are not promising: "Green, green, and more green-how I detest it; I long for cities." She describes her charge, Clementina (Florence Hoath), as "a rodent in lace petticoats." Mrs. Cavendish (Harriet Walter) is bored, suspicious, and utterly empty. Bleak. But then there's Mr. Charles Cavendish (Tom Wilkinson).
In this grim family, Charles has retreated to his lab, where he indulges his considerable passion in pursuit of the new craft of photography. He has created images with a box camera that last only a day. It is Rosina who discovers how to fix a lasting image on paper with salt and crystals. Alive with the thrill of discovery, Mary seduces Charles and becomes his lab assistant. The lab now bursts with the vitality of work and love.
Unfortunately their affair is full of things both inevitable and predictable. The camera lingers pointlessly while Rosina and Charles stare meaningfully at each other while saying such things as, "This is madness," and "You consume me." Or try this: "I could drown in your hair." Night after night-and we visit her nearly every night--Rosina lies lonely in her bed in this freezing house that is such a contrast to the home of her youth where candles and firelight warmed rich interior colors.
And there's the matter of the jarring details. This is 1840, mind you, and yet we hear the sound of Charles's zipper as he readies himself. We hear Rosina say, "He's pissing in his pants." And Charles's socks seem to snap with spandex. We wonder why Rosina has endless time, free of her duties as governess, to make love and develop pictures with Charles, and we also wonder why, in this house full of bored people, no one ever interrupts them.
Director Goldbacher assembled good actors, great locations, and a genuinely interesting twist with the photography, but the movie fails because the momentum slipped through her fingers. The miserable Mrs. Cavendish asks, "Do you think it's possible to die of boredom and disappointment?" Probably not, but this movie makes it a distinct possibility.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 487
Studio : Sony Pictures Classics
Rating : R
Running time : 1h54m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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