Movie Review By Heather Clisby
Nobody does tortured love and repressed emotion quite like the English. Directed by William Nicholson, "Firelight" is all of that and more. More sex, for one thing.
The film begins with a mysterious interview in 1838; twenty-two-year-old Elisabeth is a young woman desperate to help her father out of debt and Charles Goodwin is a British aristocrat in dire need of an heir. Charles is married but the wife is, well, a little non-responsive . . . in a coma, to be specific.
Hiding behind a screen to conceal his identity, Charles uses a third person to pose questions. Almost immediately, the strong-willed Elisabeth sets the tone for their relationship and forces Charles to speak for himself, for this man wants to pay her L500 to sire his child. She has a price but she also has her limits.
For three nights they go about mating and try to keep it all business but oh, the sparks fly! What began as sex, quickly becomes lovemaking with both parties equally surprised by the pleasure. Nine months later, Elisabeth gives birth to a girl and the baby is whisked away immediately for a life of privilege and the deal is done.
Forward to six years later and the child, Louisa, has grown into a spoiled brat who goes through governesses like the daily tea. One day, Elisabeth shows up to take the challenging position, much to the great shock of Charles. Here is where the story really begins.
French actress, 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.
Stephen Dillane is the honorable Charles, whose inner suffering seems endless and his stubborn dedication to responsibility makes him a bit droll. Even his own fun-loving father complains about how his only son was always more like another father to him. Dillane's wooden figure is an ideal way to demonstrate the stark difference when Elisabeth enters the room.
Nicholson has made a heart-wrenching film, both erotic and sad. The chemistry between Marceau and Dillane are the backbone of a heart-wrenching story. Also notable, is Lia Williams, as Charles long-enduring sister-in-law and the only character that truly ends up with nothing. In contrast, those of us sitting in the dark came away from the theatre with a rich, compelling, sensual story that takes weeks to forget.
© 1998 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 9/9/98
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