3 Stars
Year Released: 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 114 minutes
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Commercial director Sandra Goldbacher’s first feature is beautifully filmed and covers interesting thematic ground. Unfortunately, it also suffers from a somewhat incredible and melodramatic story. Minnie Driver plays Rosina, an adventurous young Jewess who is forced to pose as a Christian in order to secure a position as a governess with a gentile family living in a secluded Scottish estate. She quickly seduces Charles Cavendish, the patriarch of the family, while assisting him with his experiments in the budding science of photography. Complications ensue when her lover proves unable to give her the complete attention that she craves. When Minnie Driver isn’t staring yearningly through gauze at the camera she puts in a typically energetic and engaging performance.
The film is gorgeously shot in a lush, sensual style that owes quite a large debt to Jane Campion — several scenes appear to be directly lifted from The Piano. While the imagery adds to the mood it ultimately feels overdone and self-indulgent. The Cavendishes have an inordinate amount of candles, tapestries and cushions lying about in odd places. Additionally, it’s not exactly clear why Rosina appears to be dressed in PVC and leather.
Goldbacher’s screenplay does an admirable job of exploring aspects of identity, grief and obsession. It also provides the characters with refreshingly complex minds. While the film contains some beautiful moments, the story isn’t entirely successful. Rosina is a rather unsympathetic heroine who behaves like an irresponsible and over passionate teenager. She enters the Cavendish family and willfully destroys it showing no thought or compassion for innocent parties. The film’s contrived ending leaves the story feeling incomplete and unsatisfying.

Posted on September 7, 1998 in Reviews by

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