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Laura San Giacomo,
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Based on the novel of the same name by Edith Wharton, it is about a husband and wife (Ethan and Zeena), who need an extra hand around the house due to Zeena's debilitated body and constant illness. The young woman who joins them is a beautiful, spirited person. She and Ethan fall in love much to the dismay of Zeena. Written by
Jason Ihle <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the original Edith Wharton novel, the stranger in town who takes an interest in Ethan is not a new pastor but a businessman temporarily staying in the area. See more »
In a winter scene early in the film, a Red-eyed Vireo can be heard singing in the dead of winter in Massachusetts. These birds winter in Amazonia, and arrive in Massachusetts in late spring. See more »
When Richard Nelson set out to adapt Edith Wharton's classic novel Ethan Frome to the silver screen, he could have never imaged that he would surpass the novel in quality. Marvelous casting and cinematography, as well as a befitting musical score by Rachel Portman, create the perfect audio/visual setting for an American classic.
Ethan Frome is the story of a man broken by his illicit love for his wife's housekeeper cousin. Starting from the present, the story flashes back to many years earlier before the accident that crippled Ethan. His wife Zeena becomes sick and sends for her cousin Mattie to take care of her. Ethan and Mattie fall deeply in love while Zeena becomes sicker and sicker.
While staying largely true to the novel, Richard Nelson makes changes to the story that perhaps Edith Wharton should have considered when writing her tragedy. The identity of the character investigating into Ethan's past has been altered from an engineer to a preacher, a more sensible profession in the context of the story. The depth of Ethan's relationship with Mattie also goes much deeper then in the novel. While perhaps this change could be criticized, it works better for the modern audience in understanding events to come. One of these events, an attempted suicide by Ethan's lover Mattie, was absent from the book yet again helps the viewing audience to feel the intense emotions of the movie. Well-chosen deletions from the book also help pacing while not infringing on its essence.
Perhaps the greatest attribute of "Ethan Frome" is its high-quality acting. Liam Neeson, staring as Ethan Frome, delivers an astounding performance. Perfecting both his character's physical ailment and emotional turmoil, he communicates the part as though it was written for him. Patricia Arquette equalizes Neeson's performance as Ethan's forbidden love Mattie Silver. There are several scenes in which dialogue is not needed to understand what Arquette's character is feeling. Lastly, Joan Allen does a phenomenal job in portraying Ethan's sickly wife Zeena. Though not as antagonistic as in the novel, she none-the-less conveys a meaningful performance.
What gives the movie version of Ethan Frome the edge over its book counterpart is the visual experience and the haunting soundtrack. The camera truly captures the melancholy of the land. There is not a moment in which the atmosphere of the setting does not match the emotional performance of the actors. Rachel Portman also composes a recurrent theme that portrays the spirit of the novel. The music, along with the camera work, help to set the kind of mood that words cannot in this instance. "Ethan Frome" wonderfully tells the story that Edith Wharton meant to in her novel. Outstanding acting and beautiful camera work make "Ethan Frome" a deeply moving film. Those who read the book will be mystified by the superiority of the movie over the novel. Those just interested in a heartfelt tale of forbidden love will not be disappointed either. Though it runs just over an hour-and-a-half, it is paced well and does not rush. As a whole, "Ethan Frome" is highly recommended.
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