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The Woodlanders (1997)

PG | | Drama, Romance | 6 February 1998 (UK)
The story is set in late 19th century rural corner of South England. The daughter of timber merchant Melbury, Grace, returns to the town after finishing school. Her father now believes she ... See full summary »

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Storyline

The story is set in late 19th century rural corner of South England. The daughter of timber merchant Melbury, Grace, returns to the town after finishing school. Her father now believes she can find a better husband than her childhood sweetheart, woodsman Giles. She marries handsome young doctor FitzPiers, but soon finds out he's not the man of her dreams and she still loves Giles. Written by Anonymous

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A timeless tale of passion and desire.

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Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements and mild language | See all certifications »
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6 February 1998 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Co do mnie czujesz?  »

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2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Marty South: Oh, Giles, if only you could tell your heart to be free.
Giles Winterbourne: You can't tell the heart. The heart hopes. Most of all where it's hopeless.
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User Reviews

 
Old-fashioned Hardy weepie
14 May 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

There's something beautifully quaint about this film, based on a Thomas Hardy novel. It was made in 1997 but there's none of the sexing-up you'd expect in a modern film.

The Woodlanders are the inhabitants of a small village. Country folk Grace Melbury (Emily Woof) and Giles Winterborne (Rufus Sewell) were childhood sweethearts but when Grace comes back from boarding school, she finds herself unable to mix with Giles and the other villagers. Her father (Tony Haygarth) encourages her to marry new doctor Eldred Fitzpiers (Cal Macaninch) who is more befitting of her new educated self. However Fitzpiers cannot cope with mixing with the woodlanders, and Grace's heart pangs for Giles once more.

There are two things Thomas Hardy is famous for: gloomy fate and Wessex, a fictional version of South West England. The third thing that he should be famous for is romance. The film is achingly romantic as everybody pines for the person that they cannot have. There's a secondary character who is also in love with Giles- odd reclusive Marty South (Jodhi May), who shares Giles' passion for nature. I would like to have seen more of her character but maybe that would just add to the aching tragedy of it all.

Apart from the tragic finale, the gloomiest moment has to be when Giles' house gets demolished and Mrs Charmond (Polly Walker), a wealthy patient with her eye on Fitzpiers, complains that his house is blocking the road- cue a shot of a rotting pile of wood.

In a sense, the film is a bit like Marty South: odd, obscure, slow and innocent. The slow pace works in a sense as you soak up all the beautiful cinematography and the gorgeously tragic score. Characters never have massive rages of passion- in that sense, it's a little bit like Chekhov. Life, miserable as it is, goes on.

All of the characters are sympathetic, even Dr Fitzpiers. Macaninch's performance is enigmatic: on one hand, Fitzpiers is a cruel and adulterous snob; on the other, he's a man of science who just doesn't understand the old-fashioned ways of the country people. Grace's father does her the most harm, forcing her to better herself because of his own feelings of inferiority, and yet Haygarth gives a warm and touching performance.

As the leads, Woof is adorably childlike as Grace and Sewell makes for a nice simple countryman. The film- I don't know the novel- is all about simplicity and innocence. The world of sexual desire is not present here, making the intrusion of Mrs Charmond all the more unpleasant. Her garish red dress is completely out of place in the charming pastel attire of the villagers and one longs for her and Fitzpiers to leave so we can hang forever in that wonderful idyll.

My criticism would be that they could have fitted more in. The film seems to touch on the novel rather than portray it, and maybe a more conventional dramatic pace might have helped there. Maybe more probing of the social issues would have been good- really, just more of everything.

This is definitely a Sunday afternoon film- a slow languid weepy, just like the good old days, that you can watch with anyone of any age. But to be honest, it's the perfect film to watch on your own as you allow it to wash over you.


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